The words “In God we trust” does not violate the first amendment’s establishment clause. The clause reads: “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.” The words “In God we trust” does not pertain to any one religion or another, the word God is ambiguous referring to a supernatural being, applicable to a myriad of monotheist and polytheist religions alike. The common assertion that the words “In God we trust” is directly analogous to a Judeo-Christian God is fallacious.
Further, it is ignorant of the universality held across major cultures, beliefs and values spanning almost all nations and time periods. The central core idea of trust in a singular or central supernatural force or deity is found in nearly every major world religion, thorough polytheism and monotheism. For instance, in the Hindu religion they trust in Brahman, in Islam they trust in Allah, the ancient Egyptians trusted in the sun god as a central deity that breathed life onto this earth. The words “In God we trust” signify the United States’ adherence to the establishment clause by promoting a non-specific universal belief that encourages the free exercise of religion not the absence of it.
The establishment clause shows that the United States can show no bias toward any one religion; it is to therefore promote freedom of religion, not freedom of religion. The majority of opposition comes from atheists who claim that the words “In god we trust” found on U.S. currency violates their right to freedom of religion found in the establishment clause.
However, atheism is not a religion, it is the lack there of, Webster’s dictionary defines religion as: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. The antonym of religion in which atheism falls under is religionless which is defined by the 1913 version of Webster’s dictionary as “Destitute of religion.” This accurately describes atheism, as the centric core of this philosophy. Atheism being a philosophy deserves protection under freedom of speech but deserves no protection as an establishment of religion. Can you image the chaos if we allowed peoples personal philosophy to hold the same legal merit as religion? If this became legislation or court precedent the effects would be catastrophic.
During the draft during the Vietnam War, if you were a Quaker you were exempt from this obligation; due to freedom of religion the government cannot pass laws that violate your religion, because it is there for restricting “the free exercise thereof”. If personal beliefs and philosophies held the same merit as religion in U.S. state and federal law, than personal philosophies can be held as valid excuse for the war e.g. “I don’t agree with violence.” Further people could create their own holidays which would hold the same merit as religious holidays, which are in fact created from no religion but from their own personal philosophies.
Legal obligations like jury duty can be excused due to your personal philosophy against this obligation. This is in no means a slippery slope argument, but simply a cause-and-effect analysis of adopting the precedent restricting the words “In God we trust” into our English common law system. In accordance with such, it is rational to say that this precedent would cause personal philosophies to hold the same legal merit as religion in American jurisprudence. This argument is not amusing or anticipating, expansion of such precedent, but merely it’s effect as a de jure definition.
This court decision does not and will not address U.S. history as argumentation for original intent, nor will it try to adopt a new meaning or precedent to the constitution as in the “Living Constitution.” This decision relies on the U.S. Constitution verbatim, or what it says literally. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It says an establishment of religion, or a particular religion or faith not religion all together. In an article in Slate magazine the prominent atheist David Greenberg reads his own words into the constitution. He stated that the use of the word “God” denotes endorsement of a particular establishment of religion.
He reasons that the absence of the word “God” signifies a clear message advocating the absence of the word God in anything pertaining to the government, clearly voiced by its absence in this document. Greenburg states in his article The Pledge of Allegiance: Why we’re not one nation “under God.” “That the founders made erecting a church-state wall their first priority when they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution reveals the importance they placed on maintaining what Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore have called a “godless Constitution.” (Greenberg , Par. 2)This statement is logically invalid and relies on speculation, a not what the document actually says verbatim, nor the original intent. He states this hypothesis as a matter of fact, as if he knew the founding fathers and knew their original indent. He cites historically inaccurate evidence that is extremely deceiving. He states “When Benjamin Franklin proposed during the Constitutional Convention that the founders begin each day of their labors with a prayer to God for guidance, his suggestion was defeated.” (Ibid)
In every weak argument there is always a shred of truth to help it stand, in this case Benjamin Franklin did make a motion to start each meeting with prayer. However it wasn’t “defeated” nor was it approved respectively it was just left alone all together. The philosophy was a hands-off, neutral approach, due to the disastrous articles of the confederation. This failure was partially induced by a superfluity of Christian prayer and dogma causing distraction. Regardless of original intent which is subjective, the constitution verbatim is what should take precedence. In reading this verbatim, we see that secularism and atheism are not establishments of religion. Therefore they deserve no protection under freedom of religion. Further, atheism is a philosophy; if we allow philosophies to have equitable rights as religions the results will be disastrous to our English common law system, inhibiting due process, and preventing enforcement of laws and obligations.
In sum, the words “In God we trust” does not violate the first amendment’s establishment clause nor freedom of religion therein, it promoting it. It promotes free exercise of religion by promoting a non-specific universal belief that encourages the free exercise of religion. Through the use of the words “In god we trust”, the State has not produced or regulated any religious establishment, nor has it given authority to any current religion. The words “In God we trust” do not coherence anyone to be associated or take part in any established religion. Additionally no other free-exercise rights or civil liberties are in conflict. The words “In god we trust” fully comply with the constitution.