Appeals Court Rejects Atheist’s Attempt to Remove ‘In God We Trust’ From American Currency

CINCINNATI, Ohio — A federal appeals court has rejected an atheist’s continued attempts to have the motto “In God We Trust” removed from American currency, concluding that the printed phrase is not compelled speech and agreeing with a lower court ruling that the complainants in the case have ample alternatives to cash if the motto bothers them that much.

“Plaintiffs’ complaint does not allege that anyone has ever attributed the motto to them. And the Supreme Court has strongly suggested that the motto’s inscription on currency does not compel speech,” wrote the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Though access to credit or bank accounts is not universal, not one of the plaintiffs alleges that his or her financial situation forecloses access to credit or checks. Plaintiffs therefore have not plausibly alleged that they lack a feasible alternative to cash for engaging in commerce,” it said.

As previously reported, atheist Michael Newdow, who has filed numerous suits challenging the mixture of God and government, first submitted a complaint in the Southern District of New York in March 2013, asserting that the motto violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution as it serves to proselytize unbelievers.

But in September of that year, U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer, Jr., nominated by Bill Clinton, rejected Newdow’s arguments, opining that “the inclusion of the motto on U.S. currency . . . does not violate the Establishment Clause [of the Constitution].”

He consequently appealed his case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, but in May 2014, the court likewise ruled against the prominent atheist.

“The Supreme Court has recognized in a number of its cases that the motto, and its inclusion in the design of U.S. currency, is a ‘reference to our religious heritage,’” it wrote. “We therefore hold, in line with the Supreme Court’s dicta, that [the motto appearing on currency does] not violate the Establishment Clause.”

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Newdow soon began seeking plaintiffs to challenge the motto from a different angle—the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed in the 1990s by then-President Bill Clinton. He filed a new suit featuring 43 plaintiffs, with nine of them being children, asserting that the phrase burdens their own beliefs as atheists.

“When [the child] is confronted with ‘In God We Trust’ on every coin and currency bill she handles or learns about in school, the power and prestige of the federal government is brought to bear upon her with the message that her father’s (and her own) atheism is false,” the complaint read in part.

“Additionally, she is taught to carry and promote a religious message her father is teaching her to at least consider denying, and to also make a completely false declaration as to what is likely to be her own religious view on the matter of God’s existence,” it asserted.

However, in December 2016, Judge Benita Pearson, appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama, ruled against the complainants, opining that “[n]o reasonable viewer would think a person handling money does so to spread its religious message.”

“A person does not own the bills and coins printed by the United States Treasury. The government does not require citizens to display money. Money does not exist for the express purpose that it be observed and read by the public,” she wrote.

Newdow and his dozens of plaintiffs, which included one Jewish man who found “superfluously printing God’s name” to be sinful, then appealed to the Sixth Circuit. On Tuesday, while finding that the complainants had established that they are protected by RFRA, the court upheld Pearson’s decision as the plaintiffs are not being forced to pay for purchases with cash, nor are they threatened with punishment for not doing so.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that they must engage in cash-only transactions; rather, they allege merely that they use cash frequently and prefer to do so. For example, one plaintiff, as an octogenarian, ‘often feels more comfortable using cash rather than credit cards or checks,’ while one child plaintiff ‘uses money almost every week to buy books, magazines, treats and gifts,'” the three-judge panel noted.

“Allegations that Plaintiffs prefer to use cash do not show that the government has effectively forced them to choose between violating their religious beliefs or suffering a serious consequence,” it said. “Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the government’s inscription of the motto on U.S. currency substantially burdens their exercise of religion.”

Read the ruling, written by Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, appointed to the bench by the-President Barack Obama, in full here. 

An amicus brief in favor of the motto had been filed on behalf of 38 members of Congress, including Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Reps. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., Jody Hice, R-Ga., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Todd Rotika, R-Ind., Steve Pearce, R-N.M., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Bill Flores, R-Texas, and Tim Walberg, R-Mich.

As previously reported, the motto “In God We Trust” has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864 and began being printed on paper currency in 1957. The phrase is to believed to have originated with the Star Spangled Banner, written during the War of 1812, which declares, “And this be our motto: In God We Trust!”

Following a Civil War-era proposal from a number of pastors to the U.S. Treasury Department that God be acknowledged on American currency, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase obliged and ordered that a design be created. Its inscription was first upheld by Congress in 1864, and then again in 1873 when Congress passed the Coinage Act, which specifically declared that the secretary “may cause the motto ‘In God We Trust’ to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto.”

In 1956, Congress passed a resolution making “In God We Trust” the national motto, which was again upheld by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 by a 396-9 vote.


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  • Well, it IS the national motto…

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      yeah, not sure which “god” they are referring to …. Mammon maybe …….

      • Modern day, very sadly accurate…

    • Bezukhov

      A more accurate motto would be “Does God trust us?”

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    so i like cash ….. it holds no intrinsic value other than the paper …… but it is more that the 1’s and 0’s they want to switch to use ……. and honestly …. how many people are being turned off to cash ….. it would seem to me that if these guys had any real sense ….. they would work toward the end of cash … as far as i know they do not have “in god we trust” on those same 1’s and 0’s ……

    • Terri Horn

      There are already about three countries that no longer accept cash

  • TheSayer

    He can use the front side up only , it doesn’t have the inscription lol ….

  • Scott Smith

    If you dont like it, GET THE F OUT.

  • URFiredGetAPrivateSectorJob

    All Democrats in Congress serve to strengthen the numbers for the leftists in charge, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Regardless of what they say in the campaign or how they vote in Congress, any Democrat will ultimately strengthen the leftist agenda in Congress. . . . VOTE REPUBLICAN IN 2018!

  • Terri Horn

    I am 56 and have only read this motto a g handful of times. Guaranteed the kids have not unless parents pointed it out. As long as kids have money they do not care what the bill says plus you need a magnifying glass to read on coins. Another failed argument. More proof of the death and resurrection than anything else in human history BUT non believers refuse to investigate. Roman Catholic church were burning people at the stake for saying the earth was round. More education and knowledge now most accept earth is round. This Wil be like Christ but it will be too late to repent. BTW decades before Catholic church formed Bible stated earth was round. In non religious documents as well as the Bible. Unlike Nostradamas Bible prophesied 1000 events 500 fulfilled with 100% accuracy unlike Nostradamus who say the name Hister was actually Hitler. The actual name of non Jewish leaders named and what they would do 100’s years before they were born. Everyone who disbelieve but refused to check is a fool especially knowing the consequences especially with so much proof outside the BIBLE. Sodom and Gomorrah located, the exodus route including the chariots on their sides. Even the sea parting is a rare but known occurrence that has happened since. Evidence of a world wide flood. Keep in believing God does not exist we should know by 2048. The generation who sees Israel return will NOT pass away before Christ comes back. BTW read what miracle Israel is. The people and land obsolete only country in history of world that came back like this and was prophesied 2000 years before it happened when Jews still enslaved to Rome. Laugh and scoff all non believers like as that will stop age you realize to your horror what I have Band others have said is the truth and it is too late for the scoffers. SMH

  • Stinger

    Go to North Korea, which is officially atheist. I hear it is a paradise, like all atheist-run nations. Look at the millions of people who immigrate to Cuba and North Korea. Obviously the atheists know how to create a utopia.

  • Tangent002 ✓

    I have a stamp that says, “Atheist Money” that will block out “In God We Trust”. I use it sometimes when I’m feeling uppity.

  • Lily Of The Valley

    “My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege…”

    – President Theodore Roosevelt (in response to a proposal to put “In God We Trust” on the 1907 “Indian head eagle” gold coins)

  • In God we trust! But in which god?

    Well that’s up for grabs, thanks to the constitutional framers’ rejection of Yahweh, God of the Bible, as America’s Sovereign.

    “…When the 18th-century founders replaced the First Commandment (found intact in some 17th-century Colonial Constitutions) with the First Amendment, America was transformed from a predominantly monotheistic Christian nation (a united nation under one God, Yahweh) into arguably the most polytheistic nation to exist (a divided nation under many gods, including Islam’s Allah).

    “It’s one thing to allow for individual freedom of conscience and private choice of gods, something impossible to legislate for or against. It’s another matter altogether for government to enable any and all religions to proliferate through the land and evangelize our posterity to false gods. This is what the First Amendment legitimizes. It is an unequivocal violation of the First Commandment and the polar opposite of the following First Commandment statute:

    ‘[Y]e shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. For thou shall worship no other god: for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou … go a whoring after their gods….’ (Exodus 34:13-15)….”

    For more, see blog article “National Religious Freedom Day aka Celebrating the Founders’ Violation of the First Commandment.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Blog and search on title.

    Then Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of free online book “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 11.

    Find out how much you REALLY know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of the 85-page “Primer” of “BL vs. USC.”