“In God We Trust” to stay on U.S. currency

This just in from Reuters (click on screenshot to read it):

The official U.S. motto, “In God We Trust”, became official only in 1956, with “E Pluribus Unum” (“out of many, one”) having been the unofficial motto—and appearing on the United States Seal—since 1782.  The new motto, which privileges religion over non-religion, is clearly unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment of the Constitution. And, in fact, I am one of many American who doesn’t trust in God, as I don’t think there are any gods. I much prefer E Pluribus Unum, which makes no faith claims. As Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) said, ““To be accurate it would have to read ‘In God Some of us Trust,’ and wouldn’t that be silly?”

Nevertheless, with religion waning yet with goddy Republicans wanting to promulgate their faith all over the country, state after state is passing laws mandating that “In God We Trust” be displayed prominently in public schools—laws that are being challenged in court as First Amendment violations as well.

Those cases are yet to be decided, but yesterday a big appeals court rejected atheists’ challenge that “In God We Trust” appearing on all U.S. currency is a constitutional violation. As Reuters reports:

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota rejected claims by 29 atheists, children of atheists and atheist groups that inscribing the national motto on bills and coins violated their First Amendment free speech and religious rights.

While other courts have allowed the motto’s use on currency, Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender said it also did not constitute an establishment of religion under a 2014 Supreme Court decision requiring a review of “historical practices.”

Gruender said the Constitution lets the government celebrate “our tradition of religious freedom,” and that putting the motto on currency “comports with early understandings of the Establishment Clause” without compelling religious observance.

“In God We Trust” began appearing on U.S. coins in 1864 during the Civil War, a period of increased religious sentiment, and was added to paper currencies by the mid-1960s. (here)

President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law making the phrase the national motto in 1956.

Tuesday’s 3-0 decision upheld a Dec. 2016 lower court ruling, though one judge refused to join part of its analysis.

Michael Newdow, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an email called it “utterly revolting” that “the history of governmental denigration of a suspect class should trump [the] principle” that neutrality be the “touchstone” for analyzing claims under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

Newdow is also known for unsuccessful litigation challenging the inclusion of “under God” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.

You can find the full court decision here. A snippet:

Instead, as with other parts of the Bill of Rights, the Court has increasingly returned to a focus on the historical meaning of the Establishment Clause. An early example of this approach is Marsh v. Chambers, where the Court upheld the practice of legislative prayer because it was “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.” 463 U.S. 783, 786 (1983). The history, the Court said, “sheds light not only on what the draftsmen intended the Establishment Clause to mean, but also on how they thought that Clause applied to the practice authorized by the First Congress.” Id. at 790.

This historical approach is now the norm. In Van Orden v. Perry, a plurality of the Court upheld a Ten Commandments display by applying an analysis “driven both by the nature of the monument and by our Nation’s history.” 545 U.S. 677, 686 (2005) (plurality opinion); see also id. at 699-700 (Breyer, J., concurring) (looking to “national traditions” and the monument’s historical context). Similarly, in Hosanna-Tabor—the Court’s first decision addressing the ministerial exception, which is rooted in the Establishment Clause—the Court examined the history of colonial “[c]ontroversies over the selection of ministers,” as well as “two events involving James Madison,” to determine that “[t]he Establishment Clause prevents the Government from appointing ministers.” 565 U.S. at 183-84. And in Town of Greece—the Court’s most recent Establishment Clause decision—the Court held that “the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by reference to historical practices and understandings.” Town of Greece, 134 S. Ct. at 1819 (emphasis added). Thus, the Court’s current jurisprudence clearly gives preference to historical analysis over the discredited Lemon test.

This is the same reason the courts have used to keep religious symbols in the public sphere for decades: they’re seen as no longer promulgating religion, but simply a “cultural” motto that reflects American history. But that’s clearly not the case, for why would Republicans and religions be pushing to have the motto installed in the public schools? As a symbol of “national tradition”? Don’t make me laugh!

The FFRF wasn’t part of this case, but I asked Andrew Seidel, one of their attorneys, if he or the FFRF had a comment. Here’s what he said, giving me permission to quote:

Of course, we think the decision is wrong and think “In God We Trust” is undeniably unconstitutional, but getting a court to agree in this climate is unlikely to happen. Right now, public education about the motto — its religious purpose, theocratic inception, and continued religious use — and building public sentiment against the exclusionary sentiment are more likely to succeed than a court challenge.
He added:
As always, I maintain that the legal fiction courts have adopted to permit “In God We Trust” to remain the motto is hypocrisy of the worst kind. You can quote me on that.
And I’ll direct you to Andrew’s Patheos article that I’ve mentioned before, in which Andrew explains this legal fiction and the attendant hypocrisy. Read this as part of your “public education about the motto”:
An excerpt:

In a government where state and church are walled off from one another, federal courts have basically declared that entrusting this world to god is not religious. Imagine for a moment if the courts had declared that John 3:16 or praying the rosary had “no theological or ritualistic” importance because it had been so often repeated. The Religious Right would have had a collective stroke, and rightfully so.

. . . And therein lies the hypocrisy. Christianity benefits when the federal courts declare that “In God We Trust” is not religious, since this allows godly office-holders to use their public office to promote their personal religious agenda. Religious Right groups and activists are perfectly willing to let the government desecrate their religion so long as it also allows them to promote their religion.

I’ll add that the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals is regarded by liberals as one of the most conservative appeals courts in the U.S. It has 17 judges, but only one was not appointed by a Republican President. (And even judge, Jane Kelly, an Obama appointee, ruled in favor of the motto in this case!) Further, three of those who sit on the court were appointed by Trump.

Woe is us.

46 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Shameful.

  2. busterggi
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Why trust in god regarding money when god is always in need of more money?

  3. Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Perhaps “In God we trust, but verify” would be better.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    If, as Judge Gruender says, “the Constitution lets the government celebrate ‘our tradition of religious freedom,’” how ’bout we change the motto to “Believe If You Wanna”?

    There’s a motto I could get behind.

    • JezGrove
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Sounds good to me, Ken!

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Should change to – In Immigration we trust.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    “… the Court upheld the practice of legislative prayer because it was ‘deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.’”

    Yeah, well, so was chattel slavery, the complete disenfranchisement of women, and a whole lot of other nasty crap. Tradition alone seems like a piss-poor reason to find a practice enshrined in the Constitution.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

      Well they have chosen to take the historical view. You know, the one that keeps looking backwards, and backwards, and backwards until…

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    “Ceremonial deism,” as these public mumblings of piety are known, has survived mainly because those concerned with constitutional freedoms have had bigger fish to fry, rather than to mount a full-fledged nationwide frontal assault on these relatively meaningless religious encroachments, whose abandonment would nontheless likely spur a hysterical right-wing backlash. But there will come a day, sooner rather than later, I think, when “ceremonial deism,” too, will have its “time in the barrel” (as the Donald’s likely-to-be-indicted pal Roger Stone might say).

    • Sastra
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      And yet most proponents of those Bigger Fish violations of church/state happily cite the official US motto and official US pledge as confirmation that there’s no separation of God and State.

  8. Mike Cracraft
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I’m in favor of “In Ceiling Cat We Trust”

  9. Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Insecurity. It’s becoming harder to protect a God so many more are no longer believing in that Christians are doubling down.

    I am ok with the slogan. It’s better to continue to slowly convert more people away from religion through conversation and critical thinking skills and then the slogan will outdate itself and even be an embarrassment for those who once thought it important.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Ever heard the saying, give them an inch and they will take a mile. Much better to give them nothing. Already some states what this motto plastered in all the schools and they will probably get it.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        sorry…should be want, not what.

  10. Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    In God We Trust, Trump Not So Much

  11. Mark
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled: “Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character.”

    In other words, it doesn’t have any literal meaning or authority. But when xians are desperate to support their delusion, it’s understandable why they refer to it.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Or, in other words, those who don’t acknowledge God are not patriotic. They’re also clueless and excluded from solemnizing ceremonies.

      I’ve heard proponents desperately compare the phrase “In God We Trust” to “Oyez, oyez ..” It’s not that the words have lost their meaning, though.

  12. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Should read “In A Particular Version Of A Particuler God Some Of Us Trust”

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    My own group, the American Institute of Original Originalism, follows the Anglican religion, in which George Washington was baptized, and we always writes our “s” to look like an “f”. We hope to see all public
    officials wearing breeches and waistcoats (or girdles and hoopskirts, as appropriate). And we are working on new legislation that will introduce witch trials in schools, inasmuch as these trials were so deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      “Life, Liberty and the purfuit of happineff.”

      I like it.

      • Posted August 31, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Irrelevant but vaguely funny aside: The collected works of Robert Boyle are written with that character. This includes his work on the “sucker” used with the air pump.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    the Court’s current jurisprudence clearly gives preference to historical analysis over the discredited Lemon test.

    Wasn’t the Lemon test the foundation to rule ID a religion – which it is!?

    If so, when did it become “discredited” and will the Dishonest Institute try again?

  15. Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    While we’re at it, let’s get rid of that goofy eye of providence over a pyramid on the Great Seal. It looks like the eye of Sauron.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Technically, that’s a Masonic symbol which many evangelicals regard as demonic.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 30, 2018 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        Yep, I always found it truly bizarre. The first time I seriously contemplated a US bill I thought it must be a joke. Monopoly money.

        Most countries update their banknotes regularly, but it’s as if the US hasn’t updated its money since 1776. A curious anomaly for a country that (used to?) claim to be modern and progressive.

        cr

        • Posted October 13, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          The money has been updated, unfortunately, hence the motto that didn’t exist until the 1950s.
          Disability activists want the dollars to be updated with different sizes matching different sums, so that blind people can sense them.

    • Posted October 13, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I find the pyramid with the eye amusing.

  16. Mark R.
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    And exactly what kind of trust are we attributing to god. That the money won’t bounce? That god is money? That the economy won’t falter? That we’ll win the next war? That we’ll become a theocracy?

    It’s just another example of a backward-ass American religious culture imbued with silly stupidity.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      I am afraid it is not just American. See my comment further down.

  17. Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I have trust in God’s ability to motivate and justify despicable behavior.

  18. Dave
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Many of today’s Identity Politics leftists would probably have more objection to “e pluribus unum” than to “In God we trust”.

    “Out of many, one”? Oh no, you’re trying to erase minorities and invalidate their lived experiences!!!

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      You’ve hit on it! That must be why “e pluribus unum” was replaced. And the eye of Sauron in the Great Seal is watching us all: watching to make sure nobody ever says anything to invalidate the lived experiences of the underreprensentariat.

    • Posted August 31, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I am not sure if the Latin is correct, but I have said that “e pluribus unum” should be complemented by “e unum pluribus”, because both are true of the US and other social systems.

    • Posted October 13, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      + 1

  19. Posted August 29, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “The official U.S. motto, ‘In God We Trust’, became official only in 1956, with ‘E Pluribus Unum’ (‘out of many, one’) having been the unofficial motto—and appearing on the United States Seal—since 1782.”

    As I think I pointed out in an earlier thread, the phrase “Annuit Coeptis” (“He [God] favors our undertakings”) has also appeared on the reverse of the Great Seal since 1782. It was chosen at the last minute over “Deo favente” (“With God favoring”). So even if we got rid of “In God we trust” we wouldn’t be as secular as some would prefer.

  20. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    In my country it is not better. We do not have god on our money but the preamble of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1999 begins with: In the name of Almighty God. Even some otherwise progressive people claimed that a reference to the supernatural was necessary.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 29, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      1999? Pathetic.

      • pierluigi Ballabeni
        Posted August 30, 2018 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        Agree. Because of it I was doubting whether to vote for the new constitution or give a blank vote. I finally voted it beacuse it contained some improvement compared to the constituion of 1874.

  21. eric
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Right now, public education about the motto — its religious purpose, theocratic inception, and continued religious use — and building public sentiment against the exclusionary sentiment are more likely to succeed than a court challenge.

    Christian school administrators have already started refusing In God We Trust posters that actually educate the students about its purpose, inception, etc..

    Care of Hemant, here’s a recent case of them rejecting an attempt to educate students on the motto.

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 29, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Well, you still can’t compel an atheist baker to put “In God We Trust” on a wedding-cake.

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    In God Some Trust.

    The rest of us have read the Bible…

    cr

    • Zetopan
      Posted September 1, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” –Isaac Asimov

  24. Posted August 31, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    This is dismaying – but I thought this had already been settled. (In the same unfortunate way.)

  25. Zetopan
    Posted September 1, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    “The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota”

    Do not expect a rational decision from that court. They also recently ruled that the FCC can claim “competitive ISP markets” even where there is none, because the FCC is allowed to believe their own carefully selected “facts”.
    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/08/fcc-can-define-markets-with-only-one-isp-as-competitive-court-rules/

  26. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 8, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “E Pluribus Unum – Out Of Many, One”

    … has anyone observed that this simultaneously covers religion? Not that the author – whomever it is – meant it.

    Thus, the direct victims of religion defend their one god while all the other gods and goddesses are Someone Else’s Problem.


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