Home > Politics > FFRF sues over “national motto”

FFRF sues over “national motto”

July 14, 2009

Last week, the House (HCR 131, passed 410-8) and the Senate (snuck into a spending bill) ordered the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center. Now the Freedom from Religion Foundation is (rightly) suing over this. The full complaint is available as a pdf, but here’s the gist of the reasons why the engraving should not go ahead:

The history of the motto “In God We Trust” evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted during the Cold War as a reaction to the purported “Godlessness” of Communism.

“In God We Trust” has no secular purpose; the phrase was adopted precisely to emphasize and endorse a supposed link between the United States federal government and Christian religious belief.

The effect of “In God We Trust” is primarily and directly to endorse and promote religion, which endorsement would be unmistakably perceived by a reasonable observer familiar with the history and context of the phrase.

“In God We Trust” is intended to and does convey the message that the United States supposedly is a Christian nation.

The United States Constitution, however, is not premised on a religious or Christian foundation; the Constitution was very purposefully and deliberately written without such a basis.

The phrase “In God We Trust” ultimately was adopted as the result of a religious campaign during the McCarthy-era Congress, intended to create a symbolic unity of “God” with the federal government.

And of course, they point out that the motto excludes those American who do not believe in the Judeo-Christian god. Will FFRF win? Who knows. We can only hope so. It is bad enough that the phrase is on our currency.

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  1. July 14, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    The last time this came before the U.S. Supreme Court, they had a chance to rule on the merits but chose to sidestep the issue and dismiss the case for lack of standing (Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow).

    As I see it they’ve got two options–rule that the slogan has no religious purpose but is essentially a hollow symbol sort of like the Christmas holiday, or rule that it’s a violation of the establishment clause.

  2. Crudely Wrott
    July 14, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I noticed this story earlier today.

    While there is little hope that hammer wont meet chisel and the lintels will remain pristine, there is some hope for this suit to serve an instructional purpose. That is, a more precise definition of propaganda. A definition that refers to familiar values proffered dishonestly in addition to foreign ones proffered dishonestly.

    Gives new meaning to “all men are created equal”.

  3. July 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Ah, yes. The old “it’s not really religion, just culture” argument. One thing I wonder: If you argue that it has no religious purpose so it SHOULD be there, aren’t you essentially arguing for having the country take God’s name in vain? Isn’t there a commandment or something saying that’s bad?

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