19 thoughts on “Do you think references to God on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance violate the constitutional separation of church and state?

  1. How do you do a split decision? What if you think “yes” in one case (inserted to weed out communists) and “I don’t know” in the other?

    Come to think of it, doesn’t it meddle with the freedom of religion at least as much as it’s messing with freedom from religion? What if you’re a gnostic who believes that “God”, as usually defined, is evil? Or if you’re a Marcionite who believes that the God of the old testament is evil? Or if you simply believe that gods are capricious beings who must be placated, not trusted?

  2. Why would you split the decision? They’re both in there due to anti-communist posturing. (The money thing dates to the civil war era of course, but only on coins. And age doesn’t sanctify it.)

    Can anyone really take seriously the Supreme Court’s “ceremonial deism” argument? They were looking for any excuse to avoid offending our nation’s whack jobs by overruling the motto.

  3. I haven’t yet got a coherent answer from any defender of “In God we Trust” or “Under God” when I ask them, “If it’s not meant to refer to religion, what is it there for?” Most defenders can’t come up with any answer at all.

  4. If the defenders of these phraseologies were both honest and aware, I suspect their responses would be along the lines of “Yes, they are unconstitutional, but I want to keep them anyway.”

  5. I find the result stunning. I don’t see how “under God” can be anything other than religious.

    I’m already playing out how to explain to my son how I don’t agree with it, but he can say it any way he wants. And he’s a good two years from school.

  6. Constitutional separation of church and state? Where is that, exactly? Oh, do you mean the phrase “Congress shall pass no law respecting establishing a religion”? because “in God we Trust” on our money hardly qualifies as Congress establishing a religion. Or are you trying to conflate the letters sent from Jefferson to Danbury Babptists ensuring them that a “wall of separation between church and state,” would protect them from the US Gov’t establishing a different religion as the state fath?

  7. “…on our money hardly qualifies as Congress establishing a religion.”

    Thank you for your deep analysis and your legal opinion, Anonymous. All those years of law school payed off.

  8. No, since a motto on money doesn’t have any legal force that could be discriminatory. In a symbolic sense, it could be considered discriminatory, but on the other hand it could be considered democratic since almost certainly does represent the beliefs of the majority of citizens.

    Anonymous is quite correct that the 1st Amendment as originally written simply meant no established church on a national scale. It didn’t even apply to states until the 14th Amendment (I think) – Massachusetts kept the Congregational church as the state-supported church well into the 19th century, though the general trend was away from the government supporting any particular religious denomination. In the later 19th century, there was a proposal to actually write basic Christian beliefs into the U.S. Constitution, thus making the USA literally a Christian nation. A lot of the strongest opposition to this came from religious organizations, which argued that connecting Christianity with any obviously human and flawed organization like a government (even a good government) could only drag religion down, and that anyone who acted religious simply because the government favored a particular religion was a false believer who would only hurt their church.

    I think that they were basically correct. I don’t think that it’s an accident that European countries that had a particular Christian denomination supported by the government ended up with a much lower percentage of the population being actively religious than in the United States, where the government made the occasional vague reference to God, but endorsed no particular religion or subgroup or denomination. Once religion becomes connected too closely with the government in peoples’ minds, and government itself has lost any religious or supernatural overtones, it becomes more difficult to have strong emotional attachment to religion. This is hardly the only difference between Europe and the USA regarding religion, though – the other differences are way to much for a single comment!

  9. I would argue that when you make someone recite it (kids in school or new citizens ) you are harming them. Maybe to you it is just symbolic, and you wouldn’t mind replacing say, God with Gods. I personally have an issue with making a formal proclamation that I don’t believe in.

  10. The premise of your poll is false.

    There is not and never has been a ‘Constitutional’ separation of church and state, in the Constitution.

    There is a prohibition on the establishment of a single national religion, in the Constitution…

    But, then, currently (since FDR) what is in the Constitution, is of little consequence (The decision is based on a single letter Jefferson wrote as an opinion, not, from anything in the laws of our country.).

    Look at the Congress and current president to see how that is true. Laws only apply to ‘the others’ not them. Any rule requiring a real and counted vote, should be deemed irrelevant, if they just consider it to have been taken and passed… And nothing ‘they’ have insisted upon for others to obey, has any relevance to them, if they don’t like it applied in that manner.

    But, when conducting a poll on the ‘Constitution’… at least have the courtesy of stating that the ‘rule’ you are talking about, is a liberal courts rewriting of the law.

  11. To all the naysayers who have no idea of why the words ‘In God We Trust’ or ‘Under God’ are anywhere allowed to be in anything put out by the Government…

    Understand, first, that I am a ‘Devout Agnostic!’ Religiously, I don’t practice any religion.

    The difference between myself, and the ersatz anti-religious is simple.

    I have studied both religions (many) and history. ( I don’t believe in American History, or British History, or any other ‘national, racial, or ethnic history.’

    I believe all history is related to all other history accounts. Understanding the why’s and wherefor’s of how they came to be and how they are related (even such an abysmal history as the socialist/dictatorship/liberal history) all have bearing on what is and may be today.

    I do not believe in Christmas, as a religious thing. I understand why we observe it (very few, today, have any idea ‘why’ and those that do, generally enjoy it).

    Christ was NOT born on December 25, year 0, 1 or 1 B.C. (the new designations by the snotty hoi-paloi disgust me).

    That has nothing to do with the idea of sharing joy, the portending of a better future, comraderie and bachanal if you would, that WAS the reason for the season.

    There are reasons going back to even Africa, why Easter is celebrated. Few know or understand those ‘histories’…

    Why wars are fought? Why we eat meat? Why there is a historical reason for women having been in the home as home-makers…

    All have REAL historical back-grounds, which are also denied by most ‘anti-God’ people.

    One in the forums stated the US government IS a religion…

    That one has no idea of what a religion is, and follows their own ‘religion…’ like a true zealot.

    Some celebrate ‘Kwanza’ because of its long traditional ‘black roots’… Which only go back to a racist person in the 1950s. (You see, if you hate a race, you are a racist. that applies to whites that hate blacks, Chinese that hate Japanese, and, even Blacks that hate Whites… The difference is only in what is hated, not in racist philiosophy… Personally, I need a better reason to hate, than origins.)

    That our (the United States) history, was founded by a minority of generally ‘white’ men with more or less ‘Christian’ attitudes, reflects much more than religion.

    They KNEW things that worked. They PRACTICED things that made sense to them. That they did this, while being in disagreement for most of the time of discussion, (also, something most know nothing about, today) means NOTHING to the ones spouting off how stupid ‘god’ is to be honored or remembered.

    The founders, in what ever way they did (or, actually, in some ways didn’t) believe in a ‘Great Spirit in the Sky’ (heavens, above or where-ever) thought that there was a basis for all to abide by the idea, that the Rights that were believed in, did not come from the founders, the Constitution, or anywhere else, but from what they believed in as a birthright, long denied by all other governments, in history. That ‘All Men were CREATED’ equal (with equal rights to fail or succeed) and that these were from a Creator… not man, or the king or anyone else.

    You deny the Creator, and you deny the rights…

    Socialists deny the Creator, and want to steal the rights.

    I don’t care one way or the other…

    EXCEPT–I believe in the RIGHTS AND the DUTIES to the person wanting to hold those rights…

    THOSE Rights were delinieated… NO others were called rights. Other things were allowed to be persued (happiness) NOT given.

    If you can’t explain this to a two to four year old… That is because you didn’t exercise your right to persue the knowledge…

    Instead you lazed about listening to those that would deny you, your child and all generations to come, any of those rights, other than to support them in dictatorship.

    YOUR choice… Ignorance and pain….

    Knowledge and maybe pain…

    Or Achievement.

    Ignorance only gets you pain…

    And the disolution of rights.

  12. old rang, why would you think most atheists don’t know about the origins of modern ritual or about the founders’ belief in Natural Law? Have you done some sort of survey, or are you speaking from ignorance?

  13. There is not and never has been a ‘Constitutional’ separation of church and state, in the Constitution.


    The establishment clause of the first amendment is a strong of a separation doctrine as, say, the 2nd amendment is a right to carry docterine and the 5th amendment is a due process doctrine.

    The rest of your jabbering is pure ignorance. Unfortunately for you, I don’t think it’s the politically motivated willful kind. I think it’s the built in incurable kind.

    Are you a gun owner?

  14. RE: Posted by: Greg Laden | March 14, 2010 5:19 PM

    Oh Learned constitutional scholar…

    Quote what you speak, but only from the Constitution…
    It does not even dis-allow the individual states from supporting a religion (For many years, one did!!!).

    But, then, according to the ones who doubt me, I know not.

    Most, Christians, atheists and non believers in this country, do know know the origin of the holidays AND traditions.

    The Easter Bunny, Eggs, Yule logs, year Christ was born, the story behind even Noah’s Ark. Much of what is taught has little or nothing to do with the history, and … (Most don’t even know what ‘tells’ told of where much the Jewish bible came from)hehehehe (or how many of Will Shakespeare’s best lines came from the Torah). I am not Jewish, either. Although As a people, I have much respect for them.

    Falling back on tried and true, most think Washington was the first president, and came up with observing Thanksgiving when we do. (both wrong, by the way)

    I won’t try to defend most of what I say. Like, most think no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq (wrong). or why the Iraqis are selling Oil to Russia/China and not the US. (because the media would not tell how JF Kerry illegally fumbled that one)

    Why argue history? Most do not know it. Many Atheists are aware of much more than the common patzer in history. Very few of any group, know most of it. It just is not taught or tried to be known (correctly that is). (I acknowledge, I am not a ‘great historian’… but, I had no troubles with it, and learned what all I could.)

    (BTW: If you look up and tell me you knew, I have no way of doubting you… But, I am agnostic.. I don’t believe the fight is worth it. Then, I can explain to my kids right from wrong (and did) without having to wonder. I find many “facts…” find which are not true, and keep going. I try not to argue with libs, since they are convinced of the lies they are told… I am not. I don’t believe in global warming, either.

    And, I know, from many years of learning, you can neither prove a negative, nor discuss with a zealot.

  15. Religion is much less significant in our political stuff today than it was a few generations ago. Leaders had to show more orthodox piety way back then. Even attending a minor brand Protestant church (Mr. Taft goes to Unitarian services!) was cause for the public to be skeptical. Religious expressions were common in political speeches too. We’ve come a ways…let’s hope we don’t slide back 🙂

  16. re: Posted by: John | March 14, 2010 11:42 PM

    Considering the America and Constitution haters running the government, now, I will take Christians with morals, any day.

    The ones in power now, have neither morals nor ethics.

    The ones that supported them, had only the news media and their teachers to learn from.

    When all you know is wrong, you know nothing.

    But can start learning.

    When half what you know is wrong, you know even less.

    Because, you don’t know what of that which you believe is wrong or right… and unlearning is not easy.

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