Home / Spring 2016 / 2016-02-11 / ‘In God we trust’ affects church/state separation

‘In God we trust’ affects church/state separation

Written by Kelsey Dickerson, Staff Writer

Last month a group of atheists represented by Sacramento-based attorney Michael Newdow filed a federal lawsuit in a bid to get “In God We Trust” removed from all U.S. currency.

The group argues that printing the slogan on money forces them to accept and redistribute a message they do not believe in almost every day.

This case has been seen before, most recently in 2013, when the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Newdow brought up charges against the U.S. Treasury Department.

Newdow has supported similar causes for years, representing a group from 2004-2010 who wanted to have “under God” removed from the pledge of allegiance.

The argument is not illegitimate. Our country was settled in part by religious pilgrims fleeing from the rule of the Catholic Church, and our Bill of Rights expressly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Religious conservatives, though, seem to maintain that our country was built on Christian values.

A poll on Debate.org asking if “In God We Trust” should be omitted from our currency has elicited interesting responses from both sides. Those who support removal argue that the motto is a left-over from the past that alienates a large percentage of the country to accommodate a few, while those defending our current printing argue that the phrase is historical—that Christianity cannot and must not be separated from our government.

The facts are hard to separate. The motto is historical. First being used in 1864 on two-cent coinage, the phrase “In God We Trust” became the United States’ official motto in 1956, perhaps for anti-communist reasons more so than historical preservation.

But in an ever diversifying America, should we base our future on the past? Pew Research Center data shows that the percentage of Americans who identify as main-line Protestant, Catholic, or Evangelical has been falling since 2007, while the percent of those who see themselves as unaffiliated or atheist is on the rise.

Shouldn’t our country’s currency reflect our government’s religious neutrality? Isn’t that what we stand for?

In a country and an era where religious beliefs are diversifying every minute, the United States has to keep up and partisan currency won’t cut it. A small change to currency may upset some religious zealots, but no other country sports the same religious wording that ours carries.

The government should be truly neutral, as it was intended to be. Taking “In God We Trust” from our currency is a progressive move that will benefit a wholly different religious America—one where religious rights are truly protected.

 

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