“In God We Trust” Lawsuit Dismissed November 6, 2009

“In God We Trust” Lawsuit Dismissed

Are you sitting down?

You may want to be sitting down for this.

It looks like your money will continue to have “In God We Trust” written on it.

The lawsuit filed by atheist Carlos Kidd against President Obama and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to remove the motto from the currency was dismissed by a judge earlier this week.

The brief ruling by the judge said that there was no Establishment Clause conflict based on previous church/state separation cases.

I’m no lawyer… but how is that phrase not an endorsement of religion over non-religion? (Not only that, you know the phrase refers to the Christian god…)

It’s not the most pressing issue atheists have to worry about — we still have to fight against faith-based initiatives, for one — and I would think it virtually impossible to get the phrase off our currency anytime soon, but this is a lawsuit I don’t mind seeing.

Some could argue that it’s yet another case that will set a precedent for the future — a lawsuit that will hurt our future efforts in this area.

Still, I see an upside. Lawsuits like this can get blasted by the media and bloggers. But it raises the question of why that phrase is on the currency in the first place. People start to read up on why the phrase was adopted by our country as its motto — in response to those “Godless Communists” — and why it was originally put on our coins in the 1860s.

Why was it, you ask? Here’s a piece of the letter from Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase which urged the Secretary to put holy words on the coins:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

A couple years later, “In God We Trust” was adopted. It went away for a little while, but it’s been there since the 1950s.

How is that phrase not Christian? How is it not a violation of church/state separation? How is it not a violation of the Establishment Clause?

The judge was wrong, plain and simple.

And, yes, so were all those other judges before him.

(Thanks to Donna for the link)

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  • Sandra S

    … That is just astounding. I have nothing to comment on, since Hemant has already pretty much said what I think. That is except to say that for all my complaining about Sweden I’m still pretty happy I live here, afterall we don’t have ‘God’ plastered all over our money (or anything else state-run).

  • Neon Genesis

    Obviously we’ll just pretend Jesus never said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s or that Jesus was anti-money and that I fail to see how America is somehow going to be more protected if we put a magic charm on our dollar bills.

  • I’ve heard of a couple of these cases happening before. The last time I believe the judge claimed the phrase at this point held traditional and patriotic value and therefore was not religious in nature. Baloney.

    No, I don’t expect these cases to actually result in anything. But I do think they should come up far more often. Eventually they should start to have an impact.

    In the meantime, I carry a Sharpie with me at all times. For editing purposes.

  • Deltabob

    The argument I often hear on the Establishment clause issue in regard to atheism is that it means the government can’t make laws giving preference to a specific religion, and that atheism, not being a religion, doesn’t get and protection under that logic.

  • Miko

    Government is inherently conservative and the legislation won’t change until thirty years after it has become de facto obsolete. In the meantime, I’m with Evan. They can make whatever crazy legislation they want, as long as they don’t expect their plans to survive an encounter with my pen.

    Jesus was anti-money

    No he wasn’t (even assuming that he existed). Consider that he told people to sell their possessions and give the money to the poor, rather than, say, telling them to either give their possessions directly to the poor or to sell their possessions and destroy the money.

  • This is obviously a politically charged question and the judge took the simplest path by citing previous unfavorable opinions.

  • Alex

    Ok, where to we sign up and send our money to file another lawsuit on this issue? It would seem to be the patriotic thing to do.

  • For the record Ridleyville, Pennsylvania no longer exists. The town is now called Prospect Park and the church is less then 5 minutes from my house.

  • Alex Perez

    I’m an atheist, but I don’t see this as very important. I could care less what my money says. It is an object that is valued by our standards. It doesn’t bother me like when someone puts “Me and Jesus are homies” on their shirts. It is not important enough. I’m glad people have taken prayer out of public schools and rightfully so. However something as large as legal tender. I think it is more important to focus first on Atheist not being discriminated against first. IDK I’m not too focused on atheist politics so my view might not matter.

  • Ben

    Not being from the US, I might be off the mark, but is part of the problem that judges are elected rather than appointed? An elected judge would have difficulty being re-elected if they did anything to upset the Godtards. However if judges were appointed, then at least they could pay attention to the law and not bow to popular opinion (read: not do anything to get them booted out).

  • James

    Someone should submit a proposal to change it to “In Greed We Trust” so it will be more in line with reality of how Americans act.

  • James: lol. I needed a laugh after watching a zombie apocalypse on TV.

    I like how Christians don’t realize that Jesus wasn’t a profit-is-god capitalist, and how so many gleefully ignore that parts about giving to the poor, taking care of widows and orphans, and suchlike.

    Hopefully when my (our?) generation is constituting the government we’ll see a bit of change for rationality. But I’m not hopeful, considering people like my family and relatives who have eight and 12? 13? (I lost count around eight..) children respectively. Fundamentalist family and relatives, to boot, who would not mind at all if our democracy was a theocracy.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Alex Perez: I’m an atheist, but I don’t see this as very important. I could care less what my money says.

    Having the slogan on our money, in and of itself is not important. However, I would like to point out that

    a) each violation of church & state is used as justification for further steps. the slogan on the coinage and the line in the Pledge of Allegiance are cited in nearly every conversation I have had with theists about separation of church and state. When I claim that the USA is not a Christian nation, they are cited as evidence to the contrary.

    b) the judge’s reasoning is ludicrous, it is obviously out of touch with reality and started by penciling in the conclusion and working backwards. It is bad thing in itself that our legal system tolerates such twisted logic.

  • TheLoneIguana

    I’ll just have to keep thinking up stuff to alter the bills.

    Science, Reason, Cthulhu, Fnord, and Elvis all make good substitutions for “In [Blank] We Trust.”

  • muggle

    Sigh, black marker looks like you’ll have to continue to keep meeting green paper.

    Though, thanks, James, for that suggestion. Something more creative than just crossing it off and a little revenge for altered billboards too.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Not being from the US, I might be off the mark, but is part of the problem that judges are elected rather than appointed?

    This is a federal court. Federal judges are, in fact, appointed, not elected.

  • Edmond

    I wonder what everyone would say if we asked them if they would rather our money say NOTHING about gods, or if it said In Yahweh We Trust? That’s His name, right?

  • Siamang

    I’m sure the rationale was the appeal to tradition. And every new incursion self-fulfills as it being even more “traditional”.

    So we should expect to eventually see IGWT plastered over every government building, every national park, every soldier’s uniform.

    On the bullet of every gun in the army, and on the bomb in every plane in the Air Force.

    Right? It’s only traditional. Mere ceremonial deism, this ‘Gott Mit Uns’ motto.

    I remember our nation used to have a motto about us being united despite all of our differences. I wonder what happened to that motto.

    Ironic that in the Pledge, “one nation indivisible” was literally divided in order to insert “God” where it never before belonged.

  • Edmond

    How do I put on an avatar picture like Siamang’s monkey or Muggle’s cat or that pirate guy?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I wonder what everyone would say if we asked them if they would rather our money say NOTHING about gods, or if it said In Yahweh We Trust? That’s His name, right?

    If you asked about “In Allah We Trust,” I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

    Actually God declares his name in Exodus 34:14:
    For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

  • Michael

    Time to just start(excuse oxymoron here) ”crossing” out the ‘G’ word on our money…. if you’re offended.

  • The judge is required to follow decisions of courts above him.

    He cannot change what the upper court (Supreme Court in this case) has said, only that court or one above it can.

    So what happens is he appeals and the appellate court says they can’t change the court above them and denies the appeal, then he appeals to the next one, and eventually he applies to the Supreme Court to hear the case.

    However the SCOTUS doesn’t hear every case. Only a tiny fraction of applications in fact. The SCOTUS votes and given the current makeup of the SCOTUS they would vote not to hear this case.

  • Andra

    I propose to change it to “In God(s) we trust (or not)”

  • benjdm


    I think it is more important to focus first on Atheist not being discriminated against first.

    That will happen when atheists are seen as part of ‘we’ instead of ‘them.’ Having a nation motto that declares ‘we trust in God’ directly impacts the discrimination, as it excludes atheists from ‘we.’

    I mark out the whole phrase on just about every bill that comes into my possession and replace it with ‘E Pluribus Unum.’

    I cross out IGWT on all my money facebook group

  • ecorona

    I change my money to read: “In No God, God, or Gods we trust – e pluribus unum”

  • maddogdelta

    As an atheist, I like the idea that the stuff we use to bribe politicians, pay for drugs, hookers and to silence people who would ordinarily expose pedophile preachers has “In God We Trust” stamped all over it.

  • joey2joey

    According to Christians, freedom of religion means being able to worship Jesus in your own way, and that the separation of church and state means the government doesn’t put a specific christian denomination ahead of others.

  • If you’ll excuse a topical plug –
    As the USA is arguably the most capitalist country in the world, would it not be more apt for the money’s motto to be
    Ingot We Trust‘?

  • muggle

    Edmond, go here:


    Sorry for taking a couple of days. Grandson’s been sick.

  • Noting that there had been a lot of “change” of late, Palin recalled a recent conversation with a friend about how the phrase “In God We Trust” had been moved to the edge of the new coins. “Who calls a shot like that?” she demanded. “Who makes a decision like that?” She added: “It’s a disturbing trend.”

    –Sarah Palin, 11/6/09 (Bush & the GOP-run Congress made the call, BTW)

    Presidents continue to conclude the Presidential oath with the words “so help me God.” … Our coinage bears the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST.” And our Pledge of Allegiance contains the acknowledgment that we are a Nation “under God.” …

    With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the Court possibly assert that “ ‘the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between . . . religion and nonreligion,’” … and that “[m]anifesting a purpose to favor . . . adherence to religion generally,” … is unconstitutional?

    Antonin Scalia, Dissent in Mcreary v. ACLU, 6/27/2005

  • TXatheist

    This accountant will continue to cross out god on any paper currency I handle.

  • It’s a bummer that there’s apparently no progress on this front, but we have to keep pounding at the wall.

    Try again, someone? 😐

  • Mark Reed

    so if it bothers you all so bad, stop accepting it as payment and stop spending it!

    cease to embrace it and pay for everything with barter, euros, gold, or travellers checks… go moneyless.

    people starving… wars… famine… plague… health…

    cant you find something else to spend your time on than metallic letters or ink ?


    Silly Atheists… almost as bad as the gays.


  • LegendsOfBatman

    Understand two problems here.
    First, “God” is generic. Therefore, the US is not endorsing or forcing any one religion, as stated.
    Second, JUST because someone does not believe in any god, does not mean society has to cater to them.
    While I do not believe America has ever been a “Christian” nation, that said, there are more Christians in America per capita, than any other nation, to my knowledge. Therefore, we recognize America as a “Christian” nation. However, generally speaking, others are free to worship as they please.
    This “anti Christian” sentiment is as much a problem as those who seem to think Christians are a problem. There are intolerant people on both sides, and both sides would be wrong to not tolerate the other.

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