SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–Michael Newdow, the atheist whose challenge of the Pledge of Allegiance reached the United States Supreme Court, is now targeting “In God We Trust” on the country’s currency.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 17 in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., Newdow charged the national motto is unconstitutional and should be removed from the United States’ paper money and coins. Newdow’s suit claims “In God We Trust” violates both of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, which ban government establishment of religion and infringement of the free exercise of religion. The suit also says the motto violates his free speech and equal protection rights.
“We are the nation that gave to the world the establishment that government should not endorse religion and everybody should be what they want,” Newdow told The Sacramento Bee before filing the suit in Newdow v. Congress. “And of all the possible choices, we go with the motto of ‘In God We Trust,’ which totally contradicts that tradition.”
The American Center for Law and Justice will defend members of Congress in the suit, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said.
The national motto “is not only permissible, but constitutional as well,” Sekulow said in a Nov. 18 written statement. “Mere acknowledgment of God by the government cannot be said to be ‘establishment of religion,’ such that it would violate the [establishment clause]. The nation’s history is replete with examples of acknowledgment of religious belief in the public sector. The Supreme Court has on several occasions referenced the national motto as a legitimate expression of our religious heritage.”
“In God We Trust” was placed on a U.S. coin for the first time in 1864 and on a bill first in 1957, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Congress approved “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956.
In 2004, Newdow argued before the Supreme Court that the phrase “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. The high court ruled Newdow did not have standing in the case, thereby leaving the pledge intact. Other plaintiffs have joined the physician-turned-lawyer in refiling a suit against the pledge, and they are awaiting a decision from a federal judge in Sacramento, according to The Bee.
Newdow also challenged the prayer in President Bush’s inauguration in January, but the late William Rehnquist, then the chief justice, rejected his emergency appeal from a lower court, which had denied his request.