Supreme Court Refuses Atheists’ Effort to Remove ‘In God We Trust’ Off US Currency

June 10, 2019 Updated: June 10, 2019

The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal on June 10 that attempts to remove the national motto “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.

The appeal was brought to the high court by 29 atheists, children of atheists, and atheist groups, after they lost the case last year at a federal appeals court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Michael Newdow, the activist attorney who is known for challenging the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at the Supreme Court, argued in the petition (pdf) that the government had violated his clients constitutional rights under the Establishment Clause and the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause by placing “In God We Trust” on every coin and currency bill because they have turned the appellants, who are all atheists, into “political outsiders.”

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for its rejection of the case (pdf).

Back in August 2018, Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the atheists’s appeal, ruling that the printing of “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency is constitutional, citing its longstanding use and saying it was not coercive (pdf).

Gruender also said that it also did not constitute an establishment of religion under a 2014 Supreme Court decision requiring a review of “historical practices.”

Moreover, the judge said the Constitution lets the government celebrate “our tradition of religious freedom,” and that putting the motto on currency “comports with early understandings of the Establishment Clause” without compelling religious observance.

“In God We Trust” began appearing on U.S. coins in 1864 during the Civil War, a period of increased religious sentiment, and was added to paper currencies by the mid-1960s.

The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington on Sept. 22, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

‘In God We Trust’ in Public Places

Signs containing the text “In God We Trust” are starting to appear again in public schools and other public venues across the United States as an increased number of states pass laws allowing or mandating references to the divine.

Advocates for the expansion of these laws say the text helps to honor traditions that provides direction and hope.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a pastor and Democratic representative for Florida House of Representatives District 14 proposed such legislation in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school massacre.

Daniels cited divine inspiration in her efforts to try to bring about a situation in which every public school student in Florida is educated in a school that features a sign saying “In God We Trust.”

In God We Trust plaque.
Two identical In God We Trust bronze plaques placed in 1961 at: (1) Longworth House Office Building, main lobby, east wall. (2) Dirksen Office Building, southwest entrance, west wall. (USCapitol/Wiki Commons)

“This motto is inscribed on the halls of this great Capitol and inked on our currency, and it should be displayed so that our children will be exposed and educated on this great motto, which is a part of this country’s foundation,” Daniels said while pushing her bill (HB 839) in the House Committee, reported Orlando Sentinel. “Something so great should not be hidden.”

The bill was eventually passed and was signed into law and takes effect on July 1. It states: “Each district school board shall adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board, the display of the state motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ designated under s. 15.0301, in a conspicuous place.”

Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.

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