By: Louis De Gruy – Assistant Online Editor
Last week, a group from Ohio and Michigan, led by a Californian lawyer, filed suit in Akron, Ohio, against the federal government regarding the printing of the phrase “In God We Trust” on the currency of the United States. Those named as defendants in the suit are U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Eric Lew and the U.S. Congress. I’m happy that a handful of Ohioans and Michiganders (Michigeese?) have found something to agree on.
The group bringing the suit, all openly atheist, claims the printing of our national motto on the currency violates constitutional separation of church and state. Because the plaintiffs regularly handle money as part of daily life, they claim that the phrase is, essentially, a government-endorsed “imposition.”
“But why don’t they just stop using money altogether then,” you say, “CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS.”
First, stop trying to talk to me through the paper. I can’t hear you. Second, let’s back up a bit.
While I agree that a lot of this lawsuit seems immature (for example, the word “God” is written as “g-d” throughout the suit, suggesting an image of someone plugging their ears and humming loudly to drown out noise whenever someone argues with them), I think our motto is something that deserves to be considered in the proper context.
The inscription on the Seal of the United States (the flattened eagle with arrows and olive branches) reads, “E Pluribus Unum,” which means, “Out of many, one” (Romans weren’t big on punctuation). The seal hasn’t changed much since its creation in 1782, and E Pluribus Unum was considered the de facto motto of the U.S. until 1956. If you’ll remember high school history with me, the ’50s were a time when everybody wanted to be as un-Soviet as possible, and many attribute the change in motto as an attempt on the part of the U.S. to differentiate itself from atheistic communism.
Not surprisingly, the change in bleacher-chant of our country has already been challenged, along with the phrase “under God” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. Looking at a dollar bill or hanging out at any primary or secondary school will confirm that both suits failed, but it’s interesting to note why they failed.
In the original 1970 case that challenged “In God We Trust,” Aronow v. United States, the court ruled the motto has “no theological or ritualistic impact.” Building off this, the Supreme Court stated in 2004’s Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (which challenged “under God” in the pledge of allegiance) said both phrases had lost “any significant religious content” through “rote repetition.”
So, here we have two court opinions from two very different time periods that essentially say the same thing: The inclusion of these phrases is meaningless. I mean, outside of a “National Treasure” film, how often have you given serious thought to what’s on our currency?
I bring all this up only to say this: I really don’t care that there’s a mention of God in our motto, nor would I care if any other deity was mentioned. Honestly, I think we should consider what our currency says about us. What I do care about is that our motto was adopted as a result of our own fears during the Red Scare (a time before Flyer sports as we know them). We allowed ourselves to be manipulated, intentionally or not, by our rivals, and our current motto reflects that. I view it as a mark of shame that we foolishly stamp on everything we can, and I think we should reclaim our original motto.