‘In God We Trust’ challenge rejected

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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The motto “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Carlos Kidd, a self-avowed atheist from Woodville, Texas, had sued President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, contending that the phrase on U.S. money violated church-state separation principles. In his lawsuit, he asked that the court order the federal government to “destroy or recycle all circulating currency, and replace it with new currency without religious inscription.”

In October 2009, Paul L. Friedman, U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, dismissed Kidd’s lawsuit for failing to state a claim. “Courts have consistently held that the phrase ‘In God we trust’ does not violate the Establishment Clause,” he wrote.

Kidd appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. On July 21, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit affirmed the lower court in Kidd v. Obama in a per curiam (“for the court”) opinion.

The panel cited Justice Stephen Breyer’s concurring opinion in Van Orden v. Perry (2005) and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurring opinion in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2003), in which both justices specifically said that the inscription “In God We Trust” did not violate the establishment clause.

The appeals court also cited the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 1970 decision Aronow v. United States, in which that court wrote: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.”

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