Once again, an Appeals Court has ruled against a group of atheists trying to get “In God We Trust” off our money.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously (3-0) today against more than two dozen atheists, their children, and two groups named in the lawsuit. They said the phrase doesn’t violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), or the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment.
Uniquely in this ruling, the judges cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Greece v. Galloway, the case that allowed sectarian prayers at government meetings as long as everyone gets a turn.
Here, Galloway is best suited to the challenge before us because both the prayer at issue in that case and the inscription of the national motto at issue here represent Government acknowledgments of religion that “strive for the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance and devotion.”
Specifically, they said that the motto was part of an established tradition in the U.S. going back to our founding and that the phrase wasn’t unfairly coercive. (One judge didn’t concur on some of the analysis, but the end result was the same.)
According to Reuters, attorney Michael Newdow, who represented the atheists and has been filing similar lawsuits across the country (hoping that one court of appeals will eventually rule in his favor), was livid:
The Constitution does not prevent the Government from promoting and “celebrat[ing] our tradition of religious freedom,” even if the means of doing so — here, adding the national motto to U.S. money — was motivated “in part because of religious sentiment”… Placing “In God We Trust” on coins and currency is consistent with historical practices.
… we recognize that convenience may lead some Plaintiffs to carry cash, but nothing compels them to assert their trust in God. Certainly no “reasonable observer” would think that the Government is attempting to force citizens to express trust in God with every monetary transaction.
Michael Newdow, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an email called it “utterly revolting” that “the history of governmental denigration of a suspect class should trump [the] principle” that neutrality be the “touchstone” for analyzing claims under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
To be sure, no one was really expecting a different result. But there have been moments of dissent within judicial ranks. In this ruling, one judge did not concur with part of the majority’s ruling (though the end result was the same), and in May, a different judge actually sided with the atheists. Newdow’s infamous case regarding the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge went to the Supreme Court only after an Appeals Court voted 2-1 in his favor.
Still, no Appeals Court majority has voted in favor of atheists everywhere this “In God We Trust” case has been tried — and not because Newdow didn’t try. By my count, there are only three circuits left that haven’t ruled on this issue. You can bet Newdow will keep going until he’s exhausted all his options.
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