The Instigator
Tatarize
Pro (for)
Winning
37 Points
The Contender
Aziar44
Con (against)
Losing
35 Points

"In God We Trust" on the currency is unconstitutional and should be removed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/19/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,171 times Debate No: 706
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (25)
Votes (20)

 

Tatarize

Pro

The God in "In God We Trust" on United States currency is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the US constitution and as such is unconstitutional.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

"In God We Trust" is a religious statement and the United States government has no right to make religious statements on our behalf.
Aziar44

Con

Hello Tatarize,

I would say that "In God We Trust" is not unconstitutional and there is absolutely no reason why it should be removed. Granted, there are people in this nation who do not believe in God. But why does that mean that "In God We Trust" can't be printed on our currency? Should we remove "Liberty" from all coins just because some people may not believe in Liberty? Obviously there is a much smaller minority not believing in liberty, but it's still a valid comparison.

Also, the Constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting the ESTABLISHMENT of a religion." Having "In God We Trust" on currency certainly does not establish a national religion. We are not a religious state because of that. It is not as though the United States government orders all people to be Christians, in fact, the God in that phrase does not even necessarily have to be a Christian God at all.

Though its origins show that the idea came from a minister (I believe), it does not mean every person has to interpret it in the same way.

I'll start off with that for now and I await your counterpoints.
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Pro

Despite what you may have been told, declaring something isn't the same as actually going to the trouble of providing an argument. I am not saying that "In God We Trust" is unconstitutional because I don't like it. I am saying that it is unconstitutional because it violates the establishment clause of the constitution. The government has no right to put a religious motto on a government coin. The supreme court case Everson v. Board of Education explained exactly what the establishment clause allows and prohibits:

"Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State."

The Supreme court also established several tests to check whether government acts violate the Establishment clause, for example the Lemon test:

1. The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

The fact, is the government cannot pass laws or legal permit actions which favor some religion over another religion or religion over no religion. Adding "In God We Trust" to our currency does exactly that. It says that atheists who do not trust in God have incorrect religious beliefs. Their opinions are wrong. There is no legitimate secular purpose to adding religious statements to our currency, likewise it serves to advance religion over no religion and excessively entangles the two (any prong of the Lemon test need be violated, all three is just obviously problematic).

One should also be careful to note the reasons why the phrase was added to the currency. Namely, it was for religious reasons to show that this country is a religious country and not one which is a "heathen nation".

According to the US Treasury:

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

'Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances. One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.'

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

'Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.'

It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

'I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.' "

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We can see that under our current law and legal theory adding a motto to the US Constitution making a clear religious statement that one religious group is right and another religious group is wrong is clearly unconstitutional. The phrase was added specifically to show that this nation believes in God, on behalf of all members of this nation. However, that is not a permissible action in so far as it uses the machinery of the state to contradict the religious opinions of the citizens of the state. That simply isn't the job of government.

You cannot legally place a religious statement on a government coin. In fact, if you look at one of the new nickels, right on the other side of "God" (through the coin) is the word "America" -- Separation of church and state means more than a centimeter.

Religious leaders ask for a religious statement on a government coin. Government agrees. Religious statement put on government coin. Religious statement directly suggests that religious opinions of some citizens is categorically wrong and that their religious beliefs are wrong. Original religious leader who asked for religious statement on government coin has correct religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are confirmed by government statement. -- This is, constitutionally speaking, a crock.
Aziar44

Con

Aziar44 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Tatarize

Pro

*sigh*

I win... barely got started. Feel free to check the other debates on this topic I've had. There are a few and they are all pretty solid.
Aziar44

Con

Fair enough. But I do not agree with this Lemon Test. I don't think that is what is inherent in the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion..." does not say it cannot put God on money. It states that no law shall be made that would force people to convert to a certain religion, practice anything because of religion, or create a national religion that is affiliated with the United States. The United States could never be called a "Christian Country" officially.

Putting "In God We Trust" on currency does not violate that. People are not forced to believe in God because of it. It is not stating that everyone in America believes in God or that we are a so-called Christian Nation.

So I am disregarding the lemon law for my argument, thus a law having "a legitimate secular purpose" does not apply to this. I disregard it because it is not IN the Constitution. If I were constrained by the Lemon Law, it would be like a anti-abortionist arguing that abortion is unconstitutional even though Roe v. Wade was in abortion's favor. Just because the Supreme Court deems abortion legal and the Lemon Law to be applicable does not mean I cannot argue against them. So I'm going based on the Constitution only.

Separation of church and state means more than a centimeter. -- Good Line.

Though, separation of church and state is never expressly stated in the Constitution.

But that is besides the point a little. As to the point that it tells people their beliefs are wrong, I do not believe it does that. Clearly the original intent was very Christian and tried to show the solidity of the nation under the Christian God. Obviously "heathen" is a bit of a strong word and unnecessary as well when referring to atheists and such.

But when you read that coin and it says "In God We Trust", it is not violating the Constitution. You don't have to be part of that "we". It is not telling you that you must be a Christian or practice any Christian beliefs. You are certainly not forced to even recognize that the Christian God is real. You are perfectly capable of maintaining your religious (or nonreligious) beliefs. Strictly speaking, it has not violated the Constitution, no matter how much it may offend you.

"In God We Trust" might offend you, but it does not violate the Constitution. You are not forced to worship God, do Christian things, or even believe in God. So this act is not prohibiting the free exercise of your religion or lack thereof. Nor is it saying that Christianity is our National religion or that everyone is Christian. Perhaps the intent was to say that then when it was introduced, but times change and certainly no one believes we are all Christians or that our government is a Christian government. "In God We Trust" is not unconstitutional.

Good debate Tatarize and I'm sorry I forfeited a round there, got a bit crazy around the holidays you know.

Good luck on all of your future debates.
Debate Round No. 3
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by gonovice 9 years ago
gonovice
thanks seth, i get it now. and i feel really stupid but apparently i was having a blonde moment when i read that.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
"To recite the pledge is not to describe the United States; instead it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice and -- since 1954 -- monotheism" -- 9th Circuit decision, Newdow v. Elk Ridge.
Posted by sethgecko13 9 years ago
sethgecko13
gonovice -

Sorry for the verbose/confusing comments. To clarify, it's my position that "In God We Trust" is unconstitutional and should not be on our currency.

Similarly, "under god" should be taken out of the Pledge as well - it was never in the original pledge in spite of the fact that it was written by a Baptist minister, and it wasn't added to the pledge until 1954 during the cold war as a slam against Communists who it was presumed were all atheists and vice versa.
Posted by gonovice 9 years ago
gonovice
gotcha sorry about that. it was sort of confusing I guess
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
I never suggested that you suggested that he was wrong. I said that he was making an extremely cogent argument in favor of the Pro case and as such your question should be answered.

No. He isn't saying that our currency should still say In God We Trust.
Posted by gonovice 9 years ago
gonovice
what are you talking about? i never said he was wrong. i was just asking a question.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
gonovice, it looks like he's making a pretty good argument that you can't go plastering money with religious mottoes. And hey, look at that the constitution agrees.

No. He isn't saying that it should still say In God We Trust.
Posted by gonovice 9 years ago
gonovice
seth are you saying that it should still say in god we trust?
Posted by sethgecko13 9 years ago
sethgecko13
Retrospace -

You're COMPLETELY wrong.

First, "In God We Trust" traces back to 1863 when the first currency appeared with the motto on it. It wasn't until 1936 that it was inscribed on all of our currency. It's VERY recent - it's not part of our cultural heritage - and it certainly wasn't endorsed by the founding fathers.

Second, when "In God We Trust" first appeared on the currency of the US - it was explicitly at the behest of Christians for the sole purpose of endorsing Christianity (and subverting all other belief systems) and the letter to the Treasury Secretary from the minister in Pennsylvania who proposed the idea read in part "This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters."

http://www.ustreas.gov...
Posted by sethgecko13 9 years ago
sethgecko13
Aziar44 -

The "Establishment of Religion" doesn't have to mean literally the government setting up a state religion. It means that the government can't endorse any religion of any kind by giving favor to it over other belief systems. There are hundreds of years of legal precedents supporting that interpretation - and it's the right one.

Once you start supporting one aspect of a religion, it's a slippery slope to supporting other aspects (and then, finally, to establishing a state religion). We're well on our way here in the United States; it started with "god" on the currency, moved to "under god" being added to the pledge, now under the Bush Administrations we literally have taxpayer money going to religious "faith-based" charities that DISCRIMINATE not only in their hiring processes, but in how they deliver the aid they're in charge of (which includes forcing recipients to attend church services - and it doesn't get more unconstitutional than that). There was a case recently in Michigan (that I believe is still being appealed) in which a man who was Catholic was forced to attend a Pentecostal rehabilitation program and forced to basically renounce some of his beliefs.

As a practical matter (in case the legal argument doesn't impress you), just think of how much Ford or Colgate or Domino's Pizza would be willing to pay to slap a slogan or advertising message on every piece of currency in circulation. It would be a whole lot. By putting "In God We Trust" on the currency the government is giving a ton of valuable free advertising and promotion to Christianity which is patently unfair to all other belief systems.

Christianity should be able to stand on its own two legs without being propped up by the state and forced in everyone's face by government mandate.

There's also a flipside; many people are now realizing the damage mixing church/state has done to the church in perverting worship until it becomes political indoctrination.
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