By Melissa Barnhart ,/CP US
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), is suing the United States Treasury Department to remove the words “In God We Trust” from all U.S. currency, because they claim the motto is offensive to nonreligious citizens.
Nineteen plaintiffs and the FFRF filed the lawsuit, Newdow v. Congress in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Feb. 1. The civil action claims the motto In God We Trust violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The plaintiffs’ claim that the motto is offensive and forces atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, freethinkers and skeptics to bear a religious message they don’t agree with, and are thus forced, when using U.S. currency, to make a false declaration regarding their religious views.
According to Dan Barker, co-president of the Wisconsin-based FFRF, a nonprofit organization that represents atheists and agnostics, the majority of Americans believe the motto sends a religious message out to everyone who collects or uses U.S. currency.
“[In God We Trust] is indeed considered to be a religious phrase,” Barker said in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday. “The message belongs in churches, private institutions and can be shared by missionaries. But who is the ‘we’ representing, if not all of us trust in a God?”
Barker believes that recent survey responses show one out of every five Americans is not a believer, and the motto is forcing nonbelievers to proselytize for monotheism when they travel overseas and exchange U.S. currency for local money.
“Part of the complaint is the message ‘In God We Trust’ sends to people in the U.S. and overseas,” said Barker, noting this lawsuit is the fourth attempt to remove the motto from U.S. currency. Previous lawsuits were filed in California, Texas and Wisconsin.
He added that when the motto was proposed in the 1950s, the purpose was to proselytize for religion, specifically Christianity. “The idea was that ‘as our money goes around the world, we are sharing our Christianity.'”
Barker told CP that the FFRF and 19 other plaintiffs are not recommending that the motto should be replaced by any other message, they just want the words In God We Trust to be removed. “We are not suggesting that the motto should be changed to ‘There Is No God,’ or ‘We Don’t Believe In God,’ because that would be offensive and the government should be neutral, and shouldn’t promote or attack either side.”
The three previous attempts to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency have been unsuccessful, but Barker believes that Mike Newdow, a member of the FFRF honorary board, has a strong case.
Newdow previously challenge to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. In 2002, the U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals ruled that the pledge’s use of “One nation under God” was unconstitutional. However, in 2004 the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Newdow’s lawsuit against Elk Grove Unified School District (where his daughter attended school), because they found he lacked standing to sue since he didn’t have primary custody of his daughter.