Over the years, atheists have worked diligently — yet unsuccessfully — to seek the removal of "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, though one prominent activist is hatching a new plan that he hopes will finally turn the tide on the issue.
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Michael Newdow, a lawyer and emergency room doctor who has also taken aim at the Pledge of Allegiance in the past, is planning to file numerous lawsuits challenging the presence of "In God We Trust" on American money.
In a guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog last week, Newdow wrote that there are many people who find the presence of the theistic phrase "offensive" and "unlawful," specifically claiming that it poses a Constitutional violation.
"It violates the first ten words of the Bill of Rights ('Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion') and it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)," he wrote. "Unfortunately, because Constitutional principles can be twisted and perverted, the challenges to this practice under the Establishment Clause have, so far, failed."
From there, Newdow explained that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act might be a more viable tool for atheists to use if they want to see the line removed from currency, arguing that there is no compelling government interest for including "God" on coins and dollars.
"This is because every Supreme Court justice involved in the three RFRA cases heard to date has agreed that, under RFRA, religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest," he wrote.
Newdow went on to openly call for plaintiffs to join his quest to sue in seven separate federal circuit courts, arguing that there are many Americans who believe that they are being forced by the government to "carry a message that violates their religious ideals."
"Imagine if Christians had to carry on their body something they disagree with religiously, like ‘Jesus is a lie’ — how long do you think that would stand?" Newdow recently told liberal website ThinkProgress. "But atheists are so denigrated in this society that people accept this without a second thought."
So, he's hoping that the courts will agree, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — the same measure at the center of the Supreme Court's controversial Hobby Lobby decision — that "In God We Trust" poses as a serious constitutional violation.
Newdow is openly looking for Americans to join him in his quest.
"Plaintiffs are now being sought to participate in these cases. The time commitment will be minimal ... and there will be no obligation to provide any financial contribution," Newdow wrote. "We actually are quite far along in finding plaintiffs. What we need mostly are families with minor children since the Supreme Court has indicated that it is more likely to uphold constitutional (and, presumably, statutory) principles when children are involved."
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Read his blog post in its entirety here.
ThinkProgress explained that Newdow and his team can take two courses of action: either argue that atheism is a religion and deserving of an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Or, he could claim that the singular term "God" is offensive to those who embrace multiple gods, no gods at all — or who are not supposed to use the word "God."
Newdow's latest attempt to strike "One Nation Under God" from currently was thrown out in 2013 by Judge Harold Baer, a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York, who ruled that the argument that the national motto violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment is unfounded.
Whether this new tactic of relying on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will work remains to be seen.