So apparently someone has gotten it into their heads to try to remove "In God We Trust" from the U.S. dollar. Enough already! God has already been removed from our schools, public squares, and public events. Here's the full story from MSNBC. It's worth quoting in full because of the sheer brazenness of it all:
Atheist challenges ‘In God We Trust’
SAN FRANCISCO - An atheist who has spent four years trying to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited in public schools is now challenging the motto printed on U.S. currency because it refers to God.
Michael Newdow seeks to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. coins and dollar bills, claiming in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the motto is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer, used a similar argument when he challenged the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because it contains the words “under God.”
He took his pledge fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2004 said he lacked standing to bring the case because he did not have custody of the daughter he sued on behalf of.
An identical lawsuit later brought by Newdow on behalf of parents with children in three Sacramento-area school districts is pending with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after a Sacramento federal judge sided with Newdow in September. The judge stayed enforcement of the decision pending appeal, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Congress first authorized a reference to God on a two-cent piece in 1864. The action followed a request by the director of the U.S. Mint, who wrote there should be a “distinct and unequivocal national recognition of the divine sovereignty” on the nation’s coins.
In 1955, the year after Congress inserted the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, Congress required all currency to carry the motto “In God We Trust.”
It is interesting that the guy making the complaint has made similar complaints before, and been rejected summarily by the Supreme Court.
Let's start with something basic here, like the actual Constitution, not the court-ruling-based interpretations of it:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Now, does adding "In God we trust" to our currency establish a state church? No. Despite the 5-10% of the population that is actually atheist or the larger percentage of people who just act that way, this is still a nation that believes in God. In God We Trust is more or less a statement of fact. For example, the statement was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955, at the height of the Cold War, to distinguish this nation from the freedom-suppressing, communist Soviet Union, which did have a state religion, with that religion being worship of the state. Worship of God and public expressions thereof were suppressed, often violently.
This bears thinking about: if you don't believe in God, who or what is the strongest "power" left on Earth? It's ungoverned human beings with guns, knives, and fists. A nation that acknowledges no higher power eventually is ruled by those with the greatest will to power. A nation acknowledging a higher power than Man understands that it, too, must eventually answer for whatever crimes it commits in the hereafter, and limits its ambitions accordingly.
Now I've occasionally gotten into arguments with people who tell me that fundamentalist Christians want to turn this country into a theocracy, and therefore all Christians are suspect. First of all, this is not the actual state of things, though a few preachers here and there might think of it. They mostly protest, as I do, the diminishment of God and faith in the public square and desire a stronger role of faith among elected officials.
Second, the use of Church-imposed discipline on the state is part of a Calvinist inheritance in the Baptist movement that was not embraced by all forms of Protestant religion. John Calvin, the French Protestant reformer, set up a humorless and harsh theocracy in the city of Geneva in the 1500s. A similar arrangement existed among the New England Puritans. Both systems eventually died out, but the notion of using human (secular) law to impose Christian discipline (sectarian law) is not a doctrine supported by other mainstream Protestant denominations today, such as Lutheranism, Methodism, or Anglicanism (or, I believe, Catholicism).
What Lutherans believe is that saving souls is a job for the Church, not the state, and that faith should be achieved through persuasion and free, independent choice, not the sword. That would be a sin. Salvation should be the goal of the individual, not the enforced conversion of the masses to one denomination or the other through state power. So if anyone preaches a separation between church and state, it's the Christian Church, not the Constitution. It is a painful lesson Christians had to learn over the course of 500 years of European history, but most of us did learn it. But this does not mean we seek to end the role of religion or God in the workings of the United States of America. It does mean changing how we as individuals think about our relationship to God and the state...and not a moment too soon.