Poll: About half of college students want ‘God’ removed from money

Poll: About half of college students want ‘God’ removed from money November 9, 2019

Survey data released late this summer adds further evidence that Republicans and religious Americans should be worried about their future role in society.

god trust money church-state students
Close-up of U.S. quarter-dollar coin inscribed with “In God We Trust.” (Scott Hudson, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

Very worried.

More than 1,000 college students were queried in the survey conducted for the right-leaning The College Fix e-zine by College Pulse, and nearly half (45 percent) of the respondents in the online poll said the phrase “In God We Trust” should be removed from U.S. currency. At the same time, 53 percent said the wording, which is the national motto, should remain.

The problem for Republicans is that arguably the party’s most dominant and influential cohort is conservative Christians.

More worrisome for U.S. Republicans and religious citizens in the poll results is that 67 percent of student Democrats responding favored jettisoning the phrase from American money, whereas only a scant 6 percent thought it should remain, the National Review reported. Also, 69 percent of LGBTQ students supported removing the phrase, while only 38 percent of “straight” students did. LGBTQ rights are a flash point in conservative politics, and Democrats are mometarily ascendant.

Still, the poll results showed strong support to keep the phrase on U.S. currency from several student demographic groups. For example, 69 percent of black students favored keeping it, 57 percent of Asians, 51 percent of whites, and half of Hispanic or Latino students.

While 63 percent of male students want to keep the slogan on our money, only 49 percent of females do.

The controversial phrase has been intermittently used on U.S. coins and paper currency since the Civil War, when Union leaders wanted to encourage a religious resurgence among citizens. It was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress as the national motto in 1956, at the height of the anti-Communist “Red Scare” period when American leaders were trying to differentiate the nation from “officially godless” Russia.

In recent years, the law requiring the patently religious motto on U.S. money — the concept of “God” is itself inherently religious — has been unsuccessfully challenged in court by nonreligious groups. U.S. Supreme Court in June declined without comment to review the latest challenge, upholding an earlier 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision ruling.

In the 8th Circuit decision, Judge Raymond Gruender wrote that the Constitution allows the government to celebrate “our tradition of religious freedom,” and that inscribing the motto on American money “comports with early understandings of the Establishment Clause” without compelling religious observance,” Reuters reporter.

This thinking, of course, is very contextual and hyper-conservative, and ignores that by being forced to use money emblazoned with religious dogma all nonbelievers are “compelled” to be actively complicit in belief despite their nonbelief. It also ignores transforming U.S. demographics long since the nation’s founding in which Americans unaffiliated with religion today comprise a quarter of the population — a group that is rapidly expanding.

So, the “tradition” the court extolls now seems to be inexorably trending toward irrelevance in American culture. And the nonreligious resent being forced to live in a long-past, more-monolithically-devout nation that no longer exists.

Student respondents in the College Pulse survey submitted varied rationale for either keeping or removing the “In God We Trust” phrase from money.

“We live in a secular nation, not a theocracy. Best to remove,” one Clemson University student stated in the poll’s comments section, The College Fix reported.

Another anti-phrase student, from University of Colorado, was more practically nuanced, suggesting, “Don’t put it on any $ going forward, but the cost to remove bills from circulation would be crazy, so let it remain on already printed currency.”

Among respondents who wanted to keep the phrase, one University of Alabama student suggested, “It’s one of the US’s mottos, and all countries put their motto on their currency, so it’s fine so long as it’s a motto.”

Another pro-phrase respondent, from University of Massachusetts, was more nuanced: “I don’t think it needs to be removed, but it should be a lower case g — ‘god.’ I think that’s a much more open saying that fits with a freedom of religion.”

Of course, this reveals a common false assumption that, somehow, God (no matter how its written) is not an inescapably religious concept.

An article in the conservative National Review points out the danger for Republicans and religious people posed by young Americans:

Younger Americans have shown themselves to be less interested in religion than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Only 30 percent of millennials and Generation Z said they see religion or belief in God as ‘very important,’ compared to 67 percent of older citizens, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Those who are college-aged or slightly older tend to identify more than their parents as religiously unaffiliated. Paralleling younger citizens’ tepid feelings toward religion is their tendency toward liberal political viewpoints, with members of Generation Z more likely than Millennials to embrace liberal over conservative values.”

But the oldsters may not be seeing the writing on the wall.

When asked to respond to the recent College Pulse survey results, University of North Carolina criminology professor Mike Adams, an evangelical Christian, said it shows the “constitutional ignorance” of students who “take the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ literally and out of context because they think it is in our constitution, which they have not read.”

Perhaps for some, yet the intent of the Founders does not solely dwell in the Constitution but also in their public utterances and in such founding documents as the Federalist Papers. Thomas Jefferson, for one, explicitly referred to the necessity of a “wall of separation” between church and state.”

Adams also contends that the motto should be inscribed on our currency because it “does not establish a religion” and that capitalism “… is impossible in a society without morals. Absolute morality is impossible without God.”

However, this is a religious bias, not a fact. Indeed, many wholly secular countries in the world are bastions of morality, like Denmark.

Adams also insists that all those who object to having God on U.S. money are “constitutionally illiterate secularists.” I would suggest that, to think that way, Adams must be a zeitgeist-illiterate constitutionalist who fears change.

But it’s coming, sir. Coming fast.


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