Atheist Group Sues to Have 'In God We Trust' Removed from Currency

moneyAnother debate is raging over the always-fraught intersection of government and religion: A group of atheists has filed a federal law suit to have the phrase "In God We Trust" removed from US currency, arguing that the words violate the separation between church and state.

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The group is made up of 41 plaintiffs in Akron, Ohio, who say that because they handle money every day, the phrase "imposes upon them" on a daily basis. They're led by attorney Michael Newdow, who's battled the government over this type of thing before, having previously (unsuccessfully) sued the government to have the words "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. In a 2015 entry on the religion and spirituality centered blog Patheos, Newdow explained his feelings regarding the removal of "In God We Trust" thusly:

"There is obviously no compelling government interest in having 'In God We Trust' on our money. We did fine for the 75 years before the phrase was ever used at all, and continued to do fine for the subsequent 102 years before such inscriptions were made mandatory on every coin and currency bill. Similarly, the vast majority of nations manage to function without religious verbiage on their money."

Fair enough. Regardless of one's personal religious beliefs, I think we can all agree that we certainly don't need "religious verbiage" on our money (even if there are plenty of people who resist the notion of its uselessness). But is it hurting anybody? Possibly. The complaint issued by the atheist group describes one plaintiff's experience with currency as truly oppressive:

"As a Humanist, she does not believe nor trust in any g-d. Rather, her beliefs require that she trust in her own abilities and a general responsibility to lead an ethical life. In handling the money, therefore, she is repeatedly unwillingly confronted with the words 'In G-d We Trust.' Thus, she is forced against her will to accept and re-distribute to others a message that goes wholly against her beliefs. Yet it is neither realistic nor reasonable for her to abandon the nation’s currency and use other forms of payment for all of her transactions." 

More from The Stir: Kids Raised Without Religion Grow Up to Be More Generous

Naturally, many aren't swayed by this rationale. Religious groups are, predictably, taking offense at the lawsuit; one website associated with the nonprofit Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc., called the suit an “attempt to eviscerate our National Motto -- and with it our religious heritage.”

Is it really, though? Objectively speaking, the atheists' argument technically carries more weight; it truly doesn't make sense for the words "In God We Trust" to be printed on our money if we really are trying to achieve separation between church and state. At the same time (and this is coming from a non-religious person), I'm not sure the phrase is a big enough deal to sue the government over -- not when there are so many other significant problems in desperate need of official attention. 

When you think about it, really, this country is still so young -- and we're constantly evolving. "In God We Trust" is part of our heritage, sure, but there is room for growth and compromise (in fact, there's a need for both). Indeed, we're growing fast -- who knows how much longer paper currency is even going to be a thing? By the time this issue gets resolved (if it ever does), the point will probably be moot, as we'll all be dealing in Bitcoin or whatever else anyway. 

And "God" likely won't have much to do with that at all!


Image via Shardayyy/Flickr

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