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Atheists Sue Congress to Remove 'In God We Trust' From Currency

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

One of the things we like to repeat about the US is that we're all free to believe what we wish, especially when it comes to religion. While this is true, there are still dominant views that dictate how we do things, naturally. But dominant views do change over time and one man is doing his best to contribute.

Attorney Michael Newdow filed suit in federal court in Ohio on behalf of 49 atheist plaintiffs for the removal of the words "In God We Trust" from American currency, reports Jurist. The phrase, he argues, is a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The defendant is the United States Congress.

The Atheist Burden

God on dollars is no good for atheists, argues Newdow on behalf of his daughter and other children of atheists, because it burdens them with a false phrase and "advocates" a Christian monotheistic" view. They do not trust in God and he is concerned that references to a deity on the currency will lead to discussions of God in school, in violation of the Constitution, and ultimately, to persecution.

Newdow's filing states: "This will inevitably expose her to potential ridicule or peer pressure as a result of her Atheism. This is a substantial burden on her free exercise rights, inasmuch as small children have a right to attend public school without government setting the stage for religious persecution ... especially when the government, itself, is a significant cause of the bigotry that might lead to the persecution."

The complaint documents the religious sentiments behind money minting, a sense that blessing a lord will bring a nation blessings, and makes another interesting point. Do atheist children "seeing a blatantly religious message on something as ubiquitous and prestigious as the nation's money" get the impression that anyone who does not adhere to that religious message is different and not a full member of society?

Relief Unlikely

Nothing changes unless people try to change things and there may well come a day when many people agree with Newdow that references to God on currency are oppressive. But his previous attempts have failed, and an appeal he made on behalf of his daughter before was rejected by the United States Supreme Court on a procedural point. He had no standing to argue for his daughter.

This claim, while interesting, seems speculative. He seeks relief in advance of a harm that he can only speculate will occur. As such, it seems likely that this complaint too will prove futile, and that our money will remain unchanged.

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