As many eyes focus on Syria, something very controversial happened last Thursday. A federal district judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against the Treasury Department for the use of “In God We Trust” on currency. The prosecution presented a case that argued atheists could not use money without feeling the government was forcing them to convert. Some plaintiffs supposedly had cut out using cash as much as possible to avoid this pressure. District Judge Harold Baer, Jr. ruled that other district courts had decided this phrase was not a violation of the First Amendment and let their decision stand.
During the Civil War, the Union placed “In God We Trust” on coins. During the Cold War, Congress passed a law to make this phrase the official motto to contradict Soviet atheism, which led to the phrase’s placement on paper currency. Congress recently reaffirmed the use on the 50th anniversary in 2006. It remains our motto and on our currency because it does not specify one religious deity over another and does not present any substantial burden. An example of substantial burden could be that businesses would not accept our currency because of the phrase alone. This is simply not the case.
Personally, I believe this phrase is not doing any harm. It may offend some, but it is nowhere near the establishment of religion in other countries. Christianity plays a large role in our country, but it’s almost always ceremonial in nature and not substantial. If we were trying to establish Christianity as the state religion, the Supreme Court would not have made so many of its recent decisions. Multiple laws and rulings contradict Christian doctrine because we are a secular country.
The district court judge made the right decision. In dismissing this case, he washes his hands of a controversial choice. The prosecution can appeal the case and take it all the way to the Supreme Court. That way, if there is a shift in thinking, the highest court in all the land can reflect that. I honestly do not believe that will happen, because no one takes these cases seriously anymore. After multiple trials, the decision should stand. There is absolutely no reason we should waste more time on this when more important decisions need to be made.