A federal appeals court on Tuesday said printing “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency is constitutional, citing its longstanding use and saying it was not coercive.
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,” Reuters reports.
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. ((https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx))
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.
The federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the use of “In God We Trust” on currency in May.
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.
Gruender has been on U.S. President Donald Trump’s list of potential candidates for open Supreme Court seats.
The case is New Doe Child #1 et al v U.S. et al, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-4440.
Meanwhile in Florida, the Tallahassee Atheists group has responded to the new “In God We Trust” law, which states every school and school administrative building in Florida must display those words prominently.
Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat and sponsor of the bill, cited the recent shootings at a Florida high school during her closing speech on the bill during this past legislative session. Seventeen people were killed in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Daniels said that God is the “light” and “our schools need light in them like never before.”
But not everyone is on board with the new law. Opponents are calling it a clear conflict with the separation of church and state.
In a statement, the Tallahassee Atheists said;
“Tallahassee Atheists fundamentally opposes any religious encroachment into our public schools. When the legislature passed House Bill 7055 into law last year, it was further endorsing a set of religions that 24% of Floridians do not subscribe to (Data: Pew Forum). Requiring that local cash-strapped school districts pay for the costs of making this unconstitutional endorsement of the god of Abraham markedly visible in every building, adds insult to injury.
“Secular Floridians are not alone in this opinion, many religious Floridians agree with us that the erosion of separation of church and state in Florida over the years is horrendous and can only lead to the degradation of our secular government. Tallahassee Atheists wonder why legislators find it so pertinent to constantly attempt to appease a supposedly omniscient and omnipresent being with expensive plaques and declarations of obedience.
“Some proponents of the law will assert that since “In God We Trust” is our state motto and our U.S. motto, that it only makes sense that we put it in schools. But as others have pointed out, it is already on our state flags and on our currency, both of which can be found in abundance at public schools. This redundancy is a waste of taxpayer money and funds that could have been used for school improvements or providing supplies and food for poor students.”
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 28th, 2018