The separation of church and state has been a guiding principle in American government since the nation's founding. Yet, the most recent legal challenge to the presence of God on federal currency has been struck down by a judge in Ohio.
The plaintiffs argued that the presence of the phrase “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency is a breach of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that government “may not substantially burden a person’s religious exercise,” reports the Baptist Joint Committee.
However, Judge Benita Pearson ruled that no such burden was proved.
“Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the use of the motto on currency substantially burdens their religious exercise,” she wrote in her ruling. “Credit cards and checks allow Plaintiffs to conduct the bulk of their purchases with currency not inscribed with the motto. And for cash-only transactions, such as a garage sale or a coin-operated laundromat, the use of the motto on currency does not substantially burden Plaintiffs’ free exercise.”
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According to WZAK, California attorney Michael Newdow, who has been fighting to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, filed a 2015 suit in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Ohio against the phrase “In God We Trust” on currency.
Newdow’s case was predicated on the phrase violating the First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, notes WZAK.
“Plaintiffs either specifically do not trust in any ‘G-d’ (with NOT trusting G-d being a basic tenet of their belief systems) or hold G-d’s name so dear and exalted that to inscribe it on a monetary instrument is deemed sinful,” Newdow and the plaintiffs stated in a court document, notes WJW.
But Judge Pearson’s ruling defies all these claims.
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“Plaintiffs argue that cash transactions force them to bear a message that they [feel] violate their religious beliefs,” she wrote, notes the official ruling. “But as the Supreme Court stated in Wooley v. Maynard, ‘The bearer of currency is thus not required to publicly advertise the national motto.’ Furthermore, Plaintiffs’ other concerns, that they may be subject to peer pressure or ridicule, or that their children may question their beliefs, are unlike the choice between a ‘basic benefit and a core belief’ described in the Supreme Court’s case law.”
Sources: Baptist Joint Committee, WZAK, WJW, U.S. District Court Eastern Division Northern District of Ohio / Photo credit: Shardayyy/Flickr