The Instigator
Tatarize
Pro (for)
Winning
37 Points
The Contender
giuocob
Con (against)
Losing
16 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: 12/20/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,664 times Debate No: 730
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (17)

 

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.
giuocob

Con

Just so you know, I'm an atheist. My religion is not influencing this argument in any way.

The Establishment clause is fairly loosely worded. The interpretation held today, as decided by Everson v. Board of Education in 1947, is this:

"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 inclusion of the phrase 'In God We Trust' on the dollar bill is not a law of any sort, and does not in any way aid the Christian church, or any other church. It does not force or influence any person to become religious. So the inclusion of the phrase, by this passage, is completely constitutional.

Unless you want to argue against my above reasoning, you must be assuming that this interpretation is incorrect. Let's look at the Establishment Clause itself:

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

This is obviously much vaguer than the interpretation posted above, but it would really be a stretch to say that this means the government cannot use religious symbols or words. If it is, then tell me exactly how you would interpret this.

On a side note, your argument has come up in several court cases, one of which being Aronow v. United States. The ruling was "It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Pro

Just so that you know, I am also an atheist. Moreover I believe there is no God. The rights of the government do not include directly contradicting my religious opinions. When I say "There is no God" it is not within the rights of the government to say that my religious opinion is wrong, there is a God, and a trustworthy God at that!

Everson v. Board of Education is certainly a good place to start when talking about how far the government can go with respect to religion or religious influences.

You say that the inclusion of "In God We Trust" doesn't qualify as a law? It was first included on the two cent coin after the passage of The Coinage Act (1864) on April 22, 1864, describing what should be on the coin including "In God We Trust". Moreover, even if it weren't a law it wouldn't matter one jot. Everson widens up the definition used. State laws aren't passed by congress but due to the due process clause of the 14th amendment and the establishment clause of the 1st amendment the entire activity of government are covered. The Department of the Interior can't suddenly start forcing all of their employees into daily Bible readings on the grounds that the 1st amendment requires a congressional law to be overturned. Whatever rules or edicts given to the government by congress or by the states does not include the ability to violate these rights. The Act establishing the Department of Interior is so limited as to not allow violations of rights. This is why such departments as the Interior or the Treasury (as we are talking of here) can't do such things.

Your argument that there needs to be a law, based on an overwhelmingly strict interpretation of the first amendment, ignores large tracts of established legal theory. And the placement of "In God We Trust" was prescribed by a law, so even this bizarrely strict interpretation fails.

Note the line in the Everson decision "Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa." -- The addition of "In God We Trust" was clearly done to support religion against non-religion. According to the United States' Treasury homepage on the history of "In God We Trust" the instigating factor was a Minister writing to the Secretary of the Treasury and asking that he show favor to "Almighty God" and help show via engraved coinage that they were not a "heathen nation" to future generations and that because the secretary was also a "Christian" he should agree to this. Clearly, this is over the line. This is the federal government participating in the affairs of religious organizations. It is not the federal government's job to tell me that my religious beliefs are wrong. Let the churches do that, those are their affairs. They cannot use the machinery of government to tell me that I am wrong.

You say that the phrase "In God We Trust" doesn't aid churches? What do you suppose would be the reaction if it were removed? The churches would clearly rise up in revolt. I have been personally, on several occasions, been directly told that my religious beliefs are wrong because the government says that "In God We Trust" is on our money. It is a common argument that this is a Christian nation, that this is a Godly nation, that this is a nation founded on Jesus... and exhibit A is always "In God We Trust". Moreover, beyond aiding the claims of Christian churches that they are correct and I am wrong. It hinders me. I am personally affected by every bit of money I have telling me that my religious beliefs are wrong. I am injured by notes of legal tender announcing that I am wrong. One could perhaps argue that this is not enough injury to have standing in court (Aronow was tossed out for that reason), however there is a church called FACTS which is a strong atheistic church and directly objects to even passively endorsing contradictory religious beliefs and, as such, cannot, for religious reasons, spend money endorsing a monotheistic God (the case was heard in the 9th circuit several days ago).

It does not need to help a church. It simply needs to be the government putting out an unneeded religious message in violation of the first amendment establishment clause. We can easily show it violates by applying 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.

Ask yourself. Does putting "In God We Trust" violate any one of those prongs? You bet it does! It has no legitimate secular purpose (unless you'd like to argue that showing how we aren't atheists is a secular purpose). It has the primary effect of showing how we aren't atheists... except some of us *ARE* atheists. As for excessive government entanglement, try to take it off our money. You'll see churches across the nation go apoplectic. Remember what happened when "Under God" was struck down in the 9th circuit? Can you honestly tell me that there wouldn't be a massive outcry? Can you say that nobody would care? Can you say that this government action doesn't tie in with religion to an amazing degree? I doubt it, and even if you could, it still fails the other two prongs.

Government action need not convert people to Christianity to be wrong. That is not a test for constitutionality.

I would like to agree fully with the Supreme Courts' opinions on these issues. Clearly they have laid out a very clear ground by which one can see violations of the establishment clause as it stands under Emerson. "In God We Trust" is a religious statement on a government coin!

Aronow did, in part, include a number of the arguments I used. It was however, a 9th circuit court case without standing. Furthermore, the arguments did not point out the history of the phrase. Looking at the motivation and reasons it was placed on the coin it is not possible to believe the conclusion reached in Aronow. "In God We Trust" was not done for history it was done for the future. It was not done as ceremony. It was done to show how we aren't heathens. Were coins prior to 1864 unpatriotic? Declaring the existence of God isn't a religious exercise? Aronow was poorly argued, in only the 9th circuit, without standing.
giuocob

Con

giuocob forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Tatarize

Pro

I have rebutted all of the previous arguments my opponent made on this topic.

You still cannot constitutionally put a religious statement on a government coin and call it separation of church and state consistent with the Everson decision.

I win.
giuocob

Con

giuocob forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by sethgecko13 8 years ago
sethgecko13
Leonitus_Trujillo -

The Declaration of Independence is not a governing document any more than the Mayflower Compact is. It says more that, after our independence was established, the founders set out to create a completely secular government. Apparently in your sloppy reading of the Constitution, you missed Article VI which bars religious tests for office-holding. That's not something you slip into a founding document of a nation if you intend that government to be religious.

"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Jefferson coined the phrase "WALL of separation between church and state" - but the IDEA of the separation of church and state goes back to John Locke (who wrote about it extensively). It was also the reason Roger Williams fled England to found Rhode Island. Both of those men died before Jefferson was even born.

You understand nothing about Everson (so I don't know why you're citing it). That decision completely validates that the US is a secular government; the court was trying to determine whether or not money was going to the parochial schools - if it was, they were going to find the program unconstitutional.

You're even wrong about the origins of the word "blessing;" it PRE-DATES CHRISTIANITY. Here's its etymology: "The verb bless comes from Old English bldsian, blēdsian, blētsian, "to bless, wish happiness, consecrate." Although the Old English verb has no cognates in any other Germanic language, it can be shown to derive from the Germanic noun *blōdan, "blood." Bldsian therefore literally means "to consecrate with blood, sprinkle with blood." The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the early Germanic migrants to Britain, used bldsian for their PAGAN SACRIFICES. After they converted to Christianity, bldsian acquired new meanings as a result of its use in translations of the Latin Bible, but it kept its pagan Germanic senses as well."
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
Leonitus, at least you are trying. The Declaration of Independence was written abiding the theories of the Enlightenment thinking John Locke, as such the reasoning for standing against God's chosen monarch the king of England were the self-evident truth that men were created equal by God (Nature's god). Nature's god is the deist god. A naturalistic god, whereas supernaturalistic gods are "nothing" as Jefferson wrote.

The Supreme Court decided the Everson case on the intent of the founding fathers and the intent was to create a wall between church and state. I'm glad that phrase doesn't appear in the Constitution, it gives the impression that church is somehow equal to the state and that they are rival groups. The Supreme Court's opinions are specifically to determine what our law entails. As such, yes the constitution calls for a wall between church and state we know this because the Supreme Court had made it's judgment on the issue.

You say that the only reference to religion in the Constitution is that clause in the first amendment saying that the state and religious spheres are separate and are trying to suggest that therefore the government wanted to found a theocracy? Are you serious?

Blessings are blessings and need not be given by mythical figments to exists. One may feel blessed by family, life, and liberty without God existing. Eg. I feel blessed and there is no God. - Q.E.D.
Posted by Leonitus_Trujillo 8 years ago
Leonitus_Trujillo
Firstly your write the word god is not seen in the constitution. However the constitution was framed AFTER we had already been a nation for more than a decade. However UPON us becoming a nation, and the document that propelled the United States as a country is the Deceleration of Independence , this Document was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and ratified by the Second Continental Congress, the First congress to preside over a new nation, the nation of the USA. And in that document it clearly stats In the very beginning, so that everyone will see it "we hold this truth's SELF EVIDENT that ALL men are CREATED EQUAL and are ENDOWED by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights."
And if the Message wasn't clear before that paragraph they announced it again.
"and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD entitle them"
You say separation of church and state is built into the constitution? B/s
I found every single reference of religion in the US constitution Here they are:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, "
There isn't enough substance in that for you to say that we need a completely secular government.
The letter to the Danbury Baptist Church IS the first mentioning of separation of Church and state, and I would like you to prove otherwise.
Becuase on my research I've seen that In Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) The Supreme Court Used the letter in their decision and even quoted which is where we get today that Phrase Separation of Church and State.
The constitution say they can't make any laws respecting an establishment of religion , but the framers of the constitution wanted everyone to know why the constitution existed. And in the preamble you will find just that "...and secure the BLESSINGS of Liberty." Thats right blessings something that is given to you by your god, which is right in accordance to the Deceleration of Independence.
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
Actually hearing Newdow argue his pledge cases or his new "In God We Trust" case is a treat.

Though, I think he's going to lose the "In God We Trust" case based on the Aronow's previous decision in the 9th. Even without standing they did argue merits. Though if you rule that merit counts even without standing then his new Pledge case wins by default based on his own previous decision in Elk Grove. -- If as argued by both Newdow in the IGWT case and the by the state in the UG case (oddly enough the merit sans standing applies in both) standing is needed to address the merits of a case. He might just win both (or lose).
Posted by sethgecko13 8 years ago
sethgecko13
Tatarize -

Thanks for the kind words; you've done an excellent job yourself. I've not read the Prometheus Retold series on the pledge and motto cases - but I'll check it out; thanks for the recommendation.
Posted by sethgecko13 8 years ago
sethgecko13
Leonitus_Trujillo –

Freedom of religion DOES mean freedom FROM religion. That's one of the basic premises of this nation's government and it's well supported by both the writings of the framers of the Constitution and a couple hundred years of legal precedents.

The Establishment Clause isn't meant to justify turning the US into an Atheistic country – that's correct. That's not what I (nor Tatarize) are advocating for. If we were pushing for a national endorsement of atheism – we'd be asking that he money say "there is no god." We're not. We want the government to refrain from taking a position on the matter altogether.

We're advocating that the United States government observe a SECULAR position. Not atheistic – secular. The government should have no opinion on religion whatsoever, neither for nor against.

While a majority of this nation's citizens are and have always been Christian – that element of our cultural heritage is not part of the legal/governmental framework that our nation is based on. That's why the Constitution is devoid of references to god. That's why it wasn't until the 19th century that religious mottos began popping up in the government sphere. That's also why Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (which dates to 1796) states "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; …"

Your attempt to soften the bigotry of forcing every citizen to acknowledge a Christian god isn't helped by claiming that it doesn't specify a god. In point of fact it does (specifically the Christian god) – but even if we assume that it doesn't – it still excludes polytheistic and atheistic faiths (like those of Hindus, Native Americans or Buddhists).

Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists wasn't the first time the idea of Separation of Church and state came up, nor was it the last.
Posted by clsmooth 8 years ago
clsmooth
Money arises naturally in a free economy, idiot. Money is the most commonly accepted means of exchange. Banks issued bank notes backed by real money (i.e. gold -- the market's chosen medium) in country's throughout the world without the government, prior to the establishment of the international monetary system. Prior to the Coinage Act of 1864, this was the case in America.

Your lack of economics education is pathetic, but typically common. "Shiny beads" is not what the market typically picks as the most commonly accepted means of exchange. Even gold or silver coins are typically too cumbersome. Real money is accepted without force or compulsion. You are dumb enough to accept the receipt, but there's no real money backing the receipt anymore -- just the government's guns.
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
The government should get out of the coin and money printing business? What? Is everybody retarded? They should just remove the religious motto. People kind of need money. It's either that or shiny beads and no ability to stop counterfeits.
Posted by giuocob 8 years ago
giuocob
I'm really sorry I couldn't finish this debate, Tatarize. My brother got home from college and started fooling around with the internet, and I effectively lost net access for a few days.
Posted by clsmooth 8 years ago
clsmooth
The government should get out of the coining and money-printing business. Then this would not be an issue.
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