Saturday, September 14, 2013

In God We Trust

For a moment reach into your pocket, wallet, or purse and pull out a one dollar bill. That dollar is out country currency; it is what we use to purchase the things we need and what we want. That dollar hold a lot of weight on it that help keeps this country as the great nation as it is now. There is a statement located on the dollar that reads “In God We Trust” which is known to be our nation motto. Dr. Michael Newdow and the Freedom from Religion Foundation speak out against the nation’s motto saying that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and causes harm to the Atheist and Secular Humanist religion. 

On Monday, September 9, 2013 eleven Atheists and Secular Humanists, including Newdow, took this case to the District Court of New York. Newdow and his cohort of representatives express an argument that the phrase “In God We Trust” on currency causes harm to their family and religion. The motto “In God We Trust” was first printed on USA currency in 1955 and then express as the country motto in 1956. Newdow argued that this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment hindering him of free practice of Atheism and Secular Humanism in which violates his free exercise of religion. The court argues by expressing by law, “a Free Exercise claim will be sustained only if the’ government has placed a substantial burden on the observation of a central religious belief,’ without ‘a compelling governmental interest justif [ying] the burden.” In other words the government can not make person choose between following their religion and the state. Countless times the United States government receives cases such as this and looks into the problem and has not seen any reason why the motto on the dollar shows a Constitution violation. The court argues that the motto has a patriotic or secular ceremonial purpose and does not have an affect on placing one religion above others. The court dismisses the case based on the plaintiff not properly having enough reasoning to show that a burden was being placed on the religion.

This proposes a question of do the government have the right to consider what is burden to the people? The motto of the country “In God We Trust” do it holds a Christian base dominion? The Establishment Clause clearly states. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The government shall not pass a law that will respect a certain religion or stopping the free exercise of others. Even though the motto is a statement that expresses religious belief many would say, but the court declares it has more historical and patriotic reasoning. The way it is being said is up for interpretation and is not favoring one religion according to the government. Within the Atheists and Secular Humanist community it creates an interpretation of negativity because they do not believe in God as a whole. Even though Newdow is offended from the nation’s motto on currency it does not cause a certain height of burden for the government to take into consideration. Should the government have the power to tell citizens what is a burden to the citizen feelings? The government basically told Newdow that this motto being currency don’t hurt you that much so we will ignore your claim for now. I argue that the government does not have the right to tell the people what is consider a burden to them.

                                                  IN GOD WE TRUST STEREOTYPES 

  In my opinion the motto “In God We Trust” on currency does not force one religion over the other. As for most religion they have a god and that could appeal to all of them and though it does not appeal to atheists it does not force them to use the currency. In today’s society there are many ways to pay for things without using dollar bills or coins. We have things such as checks and direct deposit that can be transferred into one bank account without the handling of cash. What I don’t agree with is this Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment in which the government can choose what is considered a burden to the people. This is why documents containing rules and regulations, The Bill of Rights for example, to protect the people from the government and the majority. In this instance the government is appealing to the majority because if a majority of people would see this as an issue the court case would have been totally different. Would that have been a big enough burden for the government to recognize?       


Cori T said...

I do not see how “In God We Trust” causes harm to Newdow and others. While some may not believe in God, I agree with Terry that “In God We Trust” does not single out one religion and is applicable to many/most. Most people, too, when handling money do not even take the time to read the motto, so when it comes to “harm,” the phrase on our cash/change does not impose a burden on a central religious belief (preventing the exercise of a religion). In addition, the United States was largely founded upon Judeo-Christian principles and the motto pays homage to this fact in a largely innocuous way.
Because of the growing population of atheists/agnostics in the US, however, paired with societal pressure to remain ‘politically correct’ and neutral, I predict that the Supreme Court will eventually hear this case and rule that “In God We Trust” as our motto is unconstitutional (violating the Establishment Clause).

Dan W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan W said...

In direct response to Cori...
1. The term "God" as written on our currency refers to only the deity of the Jewish and Christian traditions and their many branches/denominations (ex "God" does not apply to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc).
2. Is this a case of valuing religions against one another or religion vs non-religion? I find it to violate both principles.
3. Does it matter whether or not people read it? For the record, I do, but even if I'm the only one I believe it is the principle we are after.
4. Just because Sarah Palin believes we were founded on Judeo-Christian values doesn't mean you have to as well.
5. I agree with your prediction and cant wait until it happens.
6. They also ought to take the illuminati insignia off of our currency as well

Gabby D. said...

I have to disagree with Cori and Terry. I don't think the issue at hand really has to do with "harm" as that is not really a basis to use when judging the constitutionality of a case. Dan made a compelling argument when he stated how the term "God" only refers to Jewish and Christian religions.

It is then confusing to me how the state, a "neutral" entity, can make the official motto "In God We Trust." The state is therefore favoring religions which believe in said "God" and ostracizing those which do not recognize this "God." Furthermore, it is even more discriminatory towards citizens that do not identify with any religion or any sort of "God." It then seems illogical to me for our neutral government to be putting trust in the hands of an almighty religious figure.

In the end, it seems clear to me that this case could be a breech in the establishment clause but I do think it will be hard to overturn just because of previous tradition.

Liz L. said...

Deists believed in a superior being from who our rights extend. The phrase “In God We Trust” is a natural extension of this belief. Removal of that statement, would allow a minority group (atheists and other religions) to impose their views on the majority of the population in a circumstance that has no bearing on their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (unlike “blue laws” - state statutes that limit economic activity on Sundays). The Bill of Rights contains no guarantee to not be offended, especially when no offense is intended, as in this case. Taken to its next logical step, one would need to remove the word “saint”/”san” from every American city that was named after a religious figure. Furthermore, Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc. would no longer be celebrated as national holidays. The First Amendment does not protect you from religion, rather, it guarantees your free practice of your preferred religion.

Tyler J said...

While I agree with the principal Newdow and the others are arguing, I believe that the court correctly dismissed the case.
I do not believe our currency should say "In God We Trust" because not all people believe in the same God, or even think one exists at all. Personally, it does not bother me to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or use currency with a similar motto on it, but I can understand how that might be off-putting to some people. As Terry pointed out, the phrase was not added to our currency until 1955. Historically, this was in the middle of the Cold War, right after the Korean War, and at the beginning of the Vietnam War. Contextually, the fight against Communism may have played a large roll in the decision to add this to our money. But now, is it still relevant or necessary?
I believe that the grounds upon which Newdow and the others sued is not solid enough - I do not understand how using the phrase on our money brings anyone harm, physically or emotionally.
I agree with Gabby’s compelling argument - that the state is a neutral entity and so should not embrace any God, no matter if it is the majorities or the minorities.
I also feel that while it may not seem like the state should be able to determine the burden placed upon people, that is precisely what the court is for. Most of its rulings are determined by judging who is more or less burdened by any particular issue brought before it.

Adam J said...

In response to Dan’s claim that God refers to only the Jewish and Christian deity I would have to point out that the Islamic God is also part of this as they are all Abrahamic religions. Secondly the word “God” can be so vaguely viewed that it does not need to be applied to the Abrahamic God. I do not believe that the phrase “In God We Trust” favors a religion over another however it does favor religion over non-religion, which brings up the debate of whether favoring religion over non-religion is unconstitutional.

Yessica M said...

Firstly, I actually laughed at Dan’s point that we might as well take the illuminati insignia off the currency because that is just brilliant, that didn’t even cross my mind. Many Americans do not support such conspiracy theory and in order to have the majority comfortable any insignia representing the illuminati should then be taken off our currency or any other american paraphernalia. I also agree with Liz that we also might as well rename every city that has ‘Saint’ somewhat incorporated in its name. If things are taken literally, then we might as well question everything that our country was founded by. Liz also makes a very good point that the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion and does not protect you from religion. And to support this point, Newdow is not forced to praise a ‘God’ when using our currency, as Terry mentioned there are other alternatives to using our currency without actually handling it. If the motto were to be changed, can you imagine a new motto? What would that even look like? “In spirituality we trust”?

iman mohammed said...

"In God We Trust" perfectly harms Americans. It depends on how one might define an American citizen. If one takes only American born citizens in to account, one's conclusion might be similar to that of the court. But all Americans, including immigrants from other nations, with their own culture and religion are taken in account, the decision will clearly appear unjust.
First of all, not all religions call their creator God. In fact only Christians and religions that branched from Christianity do. The word God doesn't have a meaning to all the other religions including Muslims. To elaborate on this point, i will explain what I am saying in terms of Islamic ideology. In Islam, the creator is called Allah. this is because the word "God" can be manipulated in different ways. It can be changed to 'Goddess', 'Gods' and many others, in any of which Muslims don't believe in.This similarly apply to most religions who don't use the terminology 'God'. Therefore, the motto of Americans will offend any American who believes in a religion that doesn't use the term 'God'.
Second if the country is respecting the first amendment, why does the motto have to be concerned with religion. religion is not the only concept that motivates patriotism. History , for example, can be a good motivation. My point is that it didn't have to particularly a religious motto. It could have been any other phenomena that will initiate people's emotions. Why religion, against the first amendment?

I stand firm in my thought that the slogan affects Americans and it will create a feeling of alienation in those who don't believe in God or are not Concerned with the concept of god.