The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a case filed by atheists to remove the phrase “In God We Trust” from all currency issued by the Department of Treasury.
The phrase, which has become the national motto, was first stamped on a 2-cent U.S. coin in 1864 and was officially added to both coins and paper money in 1955 after Congress passed legislation.
The high court on Monday declined to take up the case, which means the finding from the last court to hear the case stands. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in 2018.
The case was brought by Michael Newdow, an activist who also sought to scrub the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. He had argued that Congress’ decision to put the phrase “In God We Trust” on currency violated the First Amendment because it was tantamount to a government endorsement of religion.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
“The lawsuit also argued that the phrase violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it forces ‘Petitioners (who are Atheists) to bear and proselytize that Montheistic message,'” the Free Beacon reported.
Representing clients and groups that identify as atheist, Newdow said that “by mandating the inscription of facially religious text on every coin and currency bill,” the U.S. government turned his clients into “political outsiders on the basis of their fundamental religious tenet.”
“Petitioners are Atheists,” the suit said. “As such, they fervidly disagree with the religious idea that people should trust in God. On the contrary, their sincere religious belief is that trusting in any God is misguided. Thus, by mandating the inscription of facially religious text (i.e., ‘In God We Trust’) on every coin and currency bill, Defendants have turned Petitioners – among whom are nine children – into ‘political outsiders’ on the basis of their most fundamental religious tenet.”
“Moreover, Defendants have conditioned receipt of the important benefit of using the nation’s sole ‘legal tender’ upon conduct proscribed by Petitioners’ Atheism (i.e., upon Petitioners’ personally bearing – and proselytizing – a religious message that is directly contrary to the central idea that underlies their religious belief system),” the suit said.
The lawsuit was filed by the groups Atheists for Human Rights, the Saline Atheist & Skeptic Society, and 27 individuals, including nine children.
One child petitioner wrote this, the suit says: “The government won’t give me money that doesn’t have god things on them, so I have to use their god money and say it is my money, that says things I don’t believe in, and forces me to give this message I don’t believe in to other people when I give them my money. The government is asking me to pretend that I believe it, they are asking me to lie just so I can use their god money and help them spread a message about a god I don’t believe in. The government shouldn’t make kids and grown ups says things they don’t mean and do bad things that are not right. That is not a good government to make kids like me lie when we are always supposed to tell the truth.”
But in its 2018 ruling, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the phrase “does not compel citizens to engage in a religious observance.” The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case means that ruling stands.
Newdow has brought numerous suits before, challenging what he says is the federal government’s unconstitutional endorsement of religion. His fight in 2004 to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance failed before the Supreme Court.
He also sought to block Chief Justice John Roberts from using the phrase “So help me God” as he administered the presidential oath of office to President Obama in 2009 and 2013, and President Trump in 2017. All of those cases failed, too.