Previous attempts to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency have failed. Arguments have so far revolved around the Free Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Those arguments were struck down.
Now, attorney Michael Newdow is trying to use religious freedom laws to expose the motto’s unconstitutionality.
Newdow, an emergency medical doctor and attorney, wrote on Patheos, “Many people — monotheistic and atheistic alike — find the inscriptions of 'In God We Trust' on U.S. money to be offensive for myriad reasons.” Newdow, an atheist, is best known for his efforts to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Newdow’s previous complaints about the “In God We Trust” motto’s placement on money to district courts have been unsuccessful. A Manhattan court found, in response to Newdow’s appeal, “The Supreme Court has recognized in a number of its cases that the motto, and its inclusion in the design of U.S. currency, is a ‘reference to our religious heritage.’” The motto was therefore deemed constitutional, Christian News Network reports.
Now Newdow is asserting the motto’s unconstitutionality under a set of laws, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which were largely crafted to protect Christian businesses from treating same-sex couples equally, Inquisitr reports. And he’s not the first to use the religious lobby’s laws for progressive purposes. They’ve been used against anti-abortion laws and against laws prohibiting the feeding of homeless people in public.
“Challenges under RFRA (as opposed to the Free Establishment Clause), however, are not as susceptible to misapplication. This is because every Supreme Court justice involved in the three RFRA cases heard to date has agreed that, under RFRA, religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest,” Newdon wrote. “There is obviously no compelling government interest in having 'In God We Trust' on our money.”
Further explaining the legal justification, he said, “Accordingly, for those who feel that being forced by the government to carry a message that violates their religious ideals is substantially burdensome.”
Newdow still plans to make arguments on the basis of the First Amendment, but this time religious freedom will take the lead. He is currently preparing lawsuits in seven federal circuits.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons