Saturday, July 7, 2012

Paleolibrarian Guest Blogger Commentary: ‘In god We Do Not Trust’

Mr. Ken Bronstein,
NYCA President

*By Kenneth Bronstein

You see it every day of your life. It’s there every time you pay for something in cash. You handle it, you touch it; if you are an Atheist you try not to notice it. But you can’t avoid it. It is in your face day in and day out: “In god We Trust,” the official national motto of the United States since 1956—and it’s on all our coins and currency!

You may say, “Enough, already, it will be on cereal boxes next.” You may say to your legislators, “Look, this is unconstitutional. Our constitution says that the U.S. government shall not ‘establish a religion.’ Yet the U.S. government is minting these coins and printing these dollar bills as representing our government--and they have a religious motto on them! You can’t do that, it’s not right.”

The response from religionists? It is generally: “Oh, don’t get excited. It’s not important.” Not important? Just try getting those four words off our coins and currency and you’ll suddenly see how important it is to them! They want you to think it is unimportant so you will go away and focus on something else. My response to them: “Well, if it’s so unimportant, then why not take it off the coinage?”

The fact is, those four words on our legal currency are a terribly important issue. Money represents the economy and stability of this country. The American dollar used to mean something worldwide. Those coins and dollar bills are in the hands of every single citizen of this country. You use those coins and dollars as a tool of exchange even if you are Muslim or Buddhist or an Atheist.

There is no getting away from them. Wouldn’t Campbell’s Soup be delighted to have their advertisements on every coin? Their ad in your pocket, on your coffee table, in your wallet? True, you may get so used to the ad that you take it for granted. And that’s exactly what religionists want for the words “In god We Trust.” They want you to take them for granted.

There are those of us who think that “In god We Trust” on our coinage is a deliberate act designed to aid the gradual intrusion of religion into our government. First they get us accustomed to the symbolism, then to religion itself. First the wordage, then the dogma. Picture an America with god on all the currency, god on the walls of courthouses, god in school textbooks, god in our pledge of allegiance, god in our national anthem, god everywhere, and suddenly it becomes clear: We have gradually and almost imperceptibly slid into becoming a god-dominated nation.
There is at least one person who is determined not to let this happen. It is Michael Newdow, a California-based physician and attorney, who once sued to get the words “under god” out of the American pledge of allegiance and got as far as the Supreme Court. (Unfortunately, the Supreme Court claimed he had no standing in that case.).

Now Newdow is suing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to get “In god We Trust” off the nation’s coins and currency. I am one of the plaintiffs in that suit, and I strongly feel that he has a powerful and persuasive case. Newdow feels that the reference to god on our coinage was intended to promote Christian monotheistic religion and thus flouts the Constitution of the U.S. and subsequent case law.

It is important to know that “In god We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the U.S. in 1956, at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and just after the 1954 McCarthy hearings. It replaced the unofficial U.S. motto E pluribus unum (“One Out of Many”) which had been adopted when the Seal of the United States was created in 1782.

In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of “In god We Trust,” the Senate reaffirmed it as the national motto. In 2011 the House of Representatives also reaffirmed it, in a 396-9 vote.

But the phrase seems to have originated in the Star Spangled Banner, written during the War of 1812, in which the fourth stanza includes the phrase “And this be our motto: ‘In god is our Trust.’” During the Civil War, there was a campaign by 11 northern Protestant Christian denominations to add “Almighty god,” in some form, on our coins, apparently to imply that god was on the Union side of the Civil War.

But an Act of Congress in 1837 decided that the U.S. Mint could make no changes on coins without another Act of Congress. Apparently, even then, more than 100 years ago, what was put on coins was deemed important. In 1873, Congress finally allowed the mint to put “In god We Trust” on “such coins as shall admit of such motto”---i.e.., where the phrase fit. Since 1938, however, all U.S. coins have the religious motto, even the dime, though you may need a magnifying glass to see it.

Secular critics contend that the motto violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and separation of church and state because it promotes theistic religion. They have pointed out that the phrase originates from the Bible, that it has been pushed the strongest by religious leaders and that it
promotes the belief in a single deity.
The U.S. religious motto has been challenged by three lawsuits to date, and, disappointingly, thus far, various judges have opined that it does not violate the constitution. In one curious decision (2004) the judge declared that the phrase "In god We Trust “has lost, through rote repetition, any significant religious content.” That’s interesting. Secular critics believe that, on the contrary, rote repetition causes the religious message to be deeply internalized into the subconscious mind.

Surveys have found that most Americans do recognize “In god We Trust” to have religious content. That seems so obvious, and the time so ripe, that I have joined Michael Newdow in pressing his case in New York now.

We are currently looking for parents of young children to join the suit to protect their children from the constant brainwashing of these words on our currency, and mark my words, this constant in-our-faces repetition of these four words results in the implanting of the god fallacy in our children’s minds and potentially counteracting our educational and scientific efforts to teach our children that trust in mythical gods accomplishes nothing.

Join us, back us, follow our case and support our efforts to resist the continual and constant encroachment of religion into our daily lives! Let it not be said, years from now, generations from now, that we gave in to the forcefulness and persistence of the religious zealots! Let future generations know that we fought, tooth and nail, through all the courts in the land and even when it seemed we could not possibly succeed against the army of myth-believers and Bible thumpers, even when it seemed like we are David fighting Goliath, we fought on. And sooner or later, we will win, because--guess what--we are right.

*Paleolibrarian Guest BloggerMrKenneth  Bronstein is the President of New York City Atheists, a non-profit educational organization located in Manhattan which is an affiliate of American Atheists. This article appeared recently in NYCA's newsletter to members. It is reprinted with permission from the author.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your efforts in getting the motto "In God We Trust" off our money!