Thursday, 19 November 2009
The US national motto, “In God We Trust,” is just about everywhere. It is on every piece of US coinage and currency, in many government buildings, and even on license plates in Ohio, Florida, and the Carolinas. Yet it is the engraving of the motto on the entrance to the Capitol Visitor's Center that is drawing the most recent controversy.
According to a recent article by the AFP, “The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed suit in July to scrub 'In God We Trust' – designated the modern US national motto in a 1956 law – and the US Pledge of Allegiance from the wall of the Capitol Visitors Center.” The group cites, among other things, the Establishment Clause, which states that government cannot endorse a religion, as the basis for their claim.
Though the phrase has been the US national motto for only 60 years, its use dates back more than 150. It was first seen on the design for the two-cent coin in 1837, and in 1873 it was approved for use – thought not made mandatory – on all coins. In 1955, the slogan was made a mandatory feature on all currency. Shortly thereafter, the phrase was adopted as the national motto.
The motto has seen its fair share of controversy since its establishment. In the 1970 case Aronow v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the inclusion of the phrase on coinage and currency was not in violation of the Establishment Clause because, according to the ruling, it “has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.” (Aronow, 432 F.2d at 243)
In response to the recent lawsuit, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed an amicus brief on behalf of more than 40 Congressmen and women, asking to dismiss the suit. According to the ACLJ website, they disagree with the plaintiffs, explaining that the “expressions echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence” and that “the First Amendment does not compel the redaction of all references to God just to suit atheistic preferences.”
If the FFRF wins the suit, the ACLJ fears other references to the motto and God found in government buildings – like the one found in the chambers of the House of Representatives – will also be in jeopardy.
Do you believe that the national motto endorses a religion? Should all references to God in government buildings be removed, or does the nation's history allow for some?