The Supreme Court has decided not to hear a case put forward by atheist groups which sought to remove the words “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.
The phrase was first added to U.S. currency in 1864 on a two-cent coin. However, it wasn’t permanently added to all U.S. coins until 1938, and it did not become the national motto until 1956. By 1966, all paper money denominations had the new motto on them.
The lawsuit, brought by the groups Atheists for Human Rights, the Saline Atheist & Skeptic Society, and 27 individuals (including nine children), argued that the use of the phrase on currency violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids the establishment of a religion by the federal government.
The groups filing the lawsuit also claimed that the phrase was in violation of the due process clause in the Fifth Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 because it, according to them, forces “Petitioners (who are Atheists) to bear and proselytize that Montheistic message.”
The text of the case includes a letter said to be written by one of the 7-year-old plaintiffs, in which the child claims that “[t]he kids in my class want me to believe the way they do and sometimes they bully me. They point at the plaque [on the wall of the classroom that bore the motto in question] and laugh at me and even point at their money in the lunch line. I just want people to like me, so I have started pretending to believe in their God. It feels like I am not given a choice.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to rule on this case. This means that the case’s loss in the lower courts stands, and the motto remains safe for the time being. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota had ruled in August that the phrase “does not compel citizens to engage in a religious observance.”
In addition to the Supreme Court, Congress has repeatedly upheld the phrase “In God We Trust” as the national motto.