Although it has been challenged in a lower court, the Supreme Court has refused to rule on the constitutionality of the motto or the phrase on currency. The phrase "ceremonial deism" has been used to describe references to God and religion by the government. Deism is a belief in a supreme being, but doesn't specify which...it's like generic religion. Recently we have seen more attempts to use the motto as a wedge to introduce the Christian concept of God as if it is recognized by government. In Indiana there are new license plates with the motto that are free while other specialty plates cost $20. There are Christian groups promoting the use of the motto in schools. There was a resolution in the U.S. House last year (it didn't pass, but it wouldn't have been law anyway) that said things like...
"Whereas the historical fact of the fundamental trust of the American people upon the God of the Bible is irrefutable;"
"Whereas Psalm 33:12 states, `Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.';"
"Resolved...That the Congress...encourages the American people to commemorate the national motto through personal acts of piety, patriotic and sacred assembly, prayer and petition on behalf of the Nation's elected and appointed leaders at the Federal, State, and local levels of government, and through a rededication of trust in God for the good and providential protection of this great Nation."
The Lemon Test is a standard that has been used by the Supreme Court to rule on First Amendment issues. It has 3 test or prongs. If any of these 3 prongs are violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The three prongs are...
- The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
- The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
- The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" with religion.
1. The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose... The fact that the majority of Americans consider themselves religious no more justifies printing "In God We Trust" on money then suggesting that since the majority of Americans consider themselves Trekkies, Star Trek should be named the official sci-fi series of the nation.
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; ... There is no question in my mind that the presence of this message has the purpose of advancing religion, and that's not even dealing with the form of that religion. When you look at it closely it's clearly referring to a monotheistic male supreme being that we are expected to trust. This rules out a lot of religions, thereby inhibiting them.
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" with religion ... The fact that the government, by way of the dept. of the treasury, is directly involved in carrying out this law is entanglement. The government isn't simply allowing a violation of the First Amendment through inaction.
My question today is...can anyone think of a reasonable argument for why printing "In God We Trust" on currency doesn't violate one of the prongs of the Lemon Test? Pick one, any one.
This is part of the Blog Against Theocracy project.