A U.S. federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the inscription of “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, ruling that America’s founding was full of examples of “official acknowledgements” of religion.
In rejecting a lawsuit by 27 atheists and two atheist organizations, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the motto violates neither the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of an establishment of religion nor the guarantee of free exercise of it.
Judge Raymond Gruender, who wrote the court’s opinion, pointed to instances from the nation’s founding in which the Founding Fathers referenced God or religion.
“For example, ‘[t]he First Congress made it an early item of business to appoint and pay official chaplains, and both the House and Senate have maintained the office virtually uninterrupted since that time,’” Gruender wrote. “… The ‘day after the First Amendment was proposed, Congress urged President Washington to proclaim a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts, the many and signal favours of Almighty God.’”
Those examples and others “shed light on the historical understandings of religion’s role in American life,” Gruender wrote.
“As the Supreme Court has proclaimed time and again,” he wrote, “our ‘unbroken history’ is replete with these kinds of official acknowledgments … which ‘demonstrate that there is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion.’”
The court’s ruling was 3-0. Gruender, a nominee of President George W. Bush, wrote the majority opinion that was affirmed, in full by Judge C. Arlen Beam, who was nominated by President Reagan. Judge Jane L. Kelly, a nominee of President Obama, affirmed the judgement but said she disagreed with the majority opinion’s comments on the Establishment Clause.
The “In God We Trust” inscription also doesn’t violate the Constitution’s free exercise guarantees, Gruender asserted.
“Convenience may lead some Plaintiffs to carry cash, but nothing compels them to assert their trust in God. Certainly no ‘reasonable observer’ would think that the Government is attempting to force citizens to express trust in God with every monetary transaction,” he wrote.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Mathieu Turle
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.