‘In God We Trust’ on currency does not violate First Amendment, federal appeals court decides

By Scott Kaufman
Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:07 EDT
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On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit concluded that the inclusion of “In God We Trust” on American currency does not violate the Establish Clause and Free Exercise of the First Amendment.

The challenge came from Rosalyn Newdow, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and coin-collector who “felt obligated to stop purchasing coin sets which exclude her and all nonbelievers.”

“It’s necessary,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-President of FFRF, “to remind not just the courts but the public that ‘In God We Trust’ is a Johnny-come-lately motto adopted at the height of the Cold War. It was only officially required on all currency in 1955.”

“It creates the dangerous misperception that our republic is based on a god, when in fact it is based on an entirely godless and secular Constitution,” Gaylor continued. “These symbolic violations from the 1950s have damaged respect for the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government.”

The Second Circuit disagreed, claiming that neither the Establishment Clause nor the Free Exercise Clause were violated because the phrase “In God We Trust” does “not have a religious purpose or advance religion, nor does [it] place a substantial burden on appellants’ religious practices.”

The appellants had argued that they were “substantially burdened” by having to use a currency with “In God We Trust” written on it, because doing so required them “to bear on their persons…a statement that attributes to them personally a perceived falsehood that is the antithesis of the central tenet of their religious system.”

The court, however, claimed that because money “is fungible and not publicly displayed, [it] does not implicate concerns that its bearer will be forced to proclaim a viewpoint contrary to his own.”

Having failed to convince the Second Circuit Court of the merits of the argument, Newdow will take the case to another venue.

“I plan to keep trying in the remaining six circuits until we find some federal appellate judges who believe in the principles that underlie our Constitution,” Newdow told FFRF.

["Detail Of One Dollar Bill" on Shutterstock]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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