The Instigator
Tatarize
Pro (for)
Losing
56 Points
The Contender
Cindela
Con (against)
Winning
71 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: 6,035 times Debate No: 732
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (37)

 

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.
Cindela

Con

Hello. I am accepting this challenge on the grounds that I don't know very much about this subject, but I will try my best.
True, "In God We Trust" is a religous statement, but we must remember that our country was founded by people who were Christians, and they are a part of the USA heritage. To say that Christianity is not part of our heritage is just like saying the USA was not part of WWII. Christianity has been linked to our society since the beginning, and is it wrong to honor the USA's heritage?

Also, the Constitution only states that the government is not allowed to establish a national religion. Saying "In God We Trust" is in no way establishing religion."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." Arownow V. United States. United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Thank You.
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Pro

"In God We Trust" is certainly a religious statement. It exists as an establishment of religion. Clearly pushing a religious idea via the machinery of the state. There were certainly some Christians who were founding fathers, as were there deists and non-believers. The argument that this nation was founded by Christians, is, at the very least, partially true. However the country was not founded as a Christian nation, it was founded as an expressly secular nation. The wall between church and state was deeply important to the founders. That is what is used to determine the Constitutionality of government action, that division between the state interfering in religious matters or religions interfering with state matters needs to be given protection. I do not and would not say that religion isn't of a historical importance. However one needs to take a look at the reasons why "In God We Trust" was put on to the money. Was it actually done as a historical honor?

According to the US Treasury website the origin of the phrase is as follows:

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"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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This is relevant for a number of reasons. First you want to know more about the subject, and certainly that is important and this information helps in that way. Secondly, by showing what the religious motivations for the motto of "In God We Trust" we quickly dispose of your argument. The phrase wasn't added to the coins on the grounds that there was a need to honor heritage. Rather Rev. Watkinson and Secretary Chase were looking forward and asking that they show themselves to be Godly, and not seem "a heathen nation" in the future by requesting that the government pass a law, as required to add a motto, which respected and establishment of religion, notably "recognition of the Almighty God" written by a Christian Minister. There is little doubt that the exact purpose of adding "In God We Trust" was to state through government machinery that God is real and that we trust God. This is clearly unconstitutional.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. I have a right not to have my religious beliefs contradicted by the government. Putting "In God We Trust" on our money is exactly as unconstitutional as putting "There Is No God" on our money. The government cannot, as a rule, promote religion. The Establishment cause says nothing about establishing a religion it says "respecting and establishment of religion" -- God is certainly an establishment or religion in the sense of the first amendment.

The establishment clause is far more broad than you oddly seem to believe. It prohibits bible readings and prayers. It establishes that the government will never play favorites when it comes to religion. This is how it has been viewed by the Supreme Court. If you take a quick look at any of the tests for constitutional appropriateness under 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.

"In God We Trust" fails on all three prongs, and only needs to fail on any one of the three. Adding "In God We Trust" was done specifically to show deference to Almighty God, and prove to the future that they were not a heathen nation. The government's actions in this regard advances monotheistic religion and inhibits my own religious beliefs as well as the religious beliefs of polytheists. If you haven't seen anybody citing "In God We Trust" as proof and evidence that this is a Christian nation and that Christians should be treated better than other people, you haven't been around very long.

Finally you brought up Aronow, and rightly so. The decision in Aronow was wrong for a number of reasons. Since Aronow, the Supreme Court has established a number of very good tests for religious entanglement. Arownow did not have standing. He had no right to bring his case as he wasn't sufficiently harmed by "In God We Trust", this is a requirement for bringing a test case not for constitutionality. Aronow is a ninth circuit case and not a Supreme Court case. The argument of heritage in the Aronow case was not challenged. Rather than point out the clearly problematic origins of Christian ministers asking for religious statements on coins, no argument was forwarded on this ground. Aronow was simply poorly argued, without standing, in the ninth district. This is easily established by looking at the quote you proffered, and my above arguments. It is simply wrong.

It is not historical to say that my current religious beliefs are wrong. It is not constitutional to say so with the full force of government backing.
Cindela

Con

The quote, "In god we trust", was put in action in the 1800s, when the USA was predominantly Christian. Just because a minority does not believe in a God that does not mean that the majority cannot. The government is supposed to represent the majority of America, and is it wrong to say that the majority of America believes that there is a God??? Also, just because that Constitution wants a "separation between church and state" does not mean that the government has to be an atheistic one. In addition, "separation of church and state" is reffering to establishing a national religion. "In God We Trust" is just saying that the government respects the fact that thre are people in America who do believe that there is a God. Again, if you are going to take "separation of church and state" literally, then why aren't all of our politicians atheits? Almost all of our Presidents have had a religion that they follow! If we are really going to follow "separation of church and state" then all of our Presidents should be Atheists! Are they? No. Also, if we are to take "In God We Trust" off our currency, then we must also have to change all the things in America that have any religous connections. No San Fransisco, no St. Paul, no "under God" in the Pledge, none of the things that help make America, America! If you take off "In God We Trust," something that has been with our country for over a century, then we may as well take away everything that has made our country unique that has any connections to the government and religion. In conclusion, what is wrong with respecting other religions through our currnecy? The constitution only says that we cannot establish a national religion that is the one that the government recognizes as one we must all follow.

Thank you
Debate Round No. 2
Tatarize

Pro

Yes. The United States has been predominately Christian since 1776 (prior to that the dominate religion was Native American Spirituality). And "In God We Trust" was put on the money in 1864 after the civil war and suggested during the civil war. Fighting against the south certainly makes one seem like a heathen nation, I mean they fight for slavery and it's pretty hard to get around the Biblical justifications for that (today people don't realize this is the case, but at the time to oppose slavery was to oppose God).

However, you argue that the majority has a right to oppress the minority on the grounds that they are the majority. Surely even you realize this argument is pathetic. You are grasping at straws here. The Establishment clause, and moreover the first amendment, and moreover the entire bill of rights is set up to do exactly this. Protect the minority from the oppression of the majority. To preserve rights and prevent excesses by the state.

It isn't wrong to say that the majority of American believe in God. It is however wrong for the government to say that God exists and we (all Americans) trust said God. I don't trust God. Why should my money? The Establishment clause of the constitution protects all citizens from the state. You cannot legally put a religious statement on a government coin with public money. Such actions are in clear violation of the establishment clause.

The argument is about the Constitution, namely that there is a strong legal case against the constitutionality of "In God We Trust". The government cannot be entangled with religion, and stamping religious statements on coins is quite entangling. The argument that the establishment clause says that the government cannot just establish a religion is both wrong and false. First, it says respecting an establishment of religion. God fits that bill. And secondly, the nature of the Establishment Clause is laid out in the Everson case. It is far more broad than you suggest:

"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 phrase "In God We Trust" isn't "just saying that the government respects the fact that there are people in America who do believe that there is a God." It was established specifically to proclaim the nation religious using the machinery of government. It was established specifically to show that those who do not believe in God are wrong; that I am wrong. It is specifically set to contradict my religious opinion. That is not the role of government. The government is not allowed to do that by the establishment clause.

Now you're just throwing Hail Marys (pardon the pun). The separation of church and state doesn't imply that politicians should be atheists. It simply asks that politicians not push a religious agenda via the state.

You argue that if "In God We Trust" is removed from our money we should change the name of cities with saints for titles. I'm sorry, but names serve secular purposes. They do not imply the validity of religion or entangle those religions. Names of cities such as San Antonio and St. Louis do not violate the Lemon test. You mention "Under God" in the Pledge and on that case you are correct. That is also unconstitutional. However, that's a debate for another day. These are not things which help make America America. These things divide us by religious difference. They divide us by religion. They are exactly the thing the founders of America didn't want America to do. United We Stand... Divided by religion when the state oversteps it's bounds.

What makes our country unique has been our adherence to rights above all. If you think theocracies are uncommon, think again. If you think states and religions do not get entangled in other countries, think again. This separation IS what makes us unique.

There's nothing wrong with respecting religion. The state, however, cannot pass a law respecting an establishment of religion. This has been the entire argument thus far. Respect is one thing, but you cannot use the machinery of the state to contradict my religious opinion.

"In God We Trust" violates the establishment clause in exactly the same way as adding "There Is No God" would.
Cindela

Con

If it is so unConstitutional, then why is it still on our money? Surely someone would have taken it to court and it would have been undoubtedly removed. But it has not. Why? Because it is not advancing religion or putting in place a national religion. The Constitution states that the government cannot institute a national religion. "In God We Trust" is just saying that the majority of America believes in a God, and since the government is supposed to represent the most people possible, then is it wrong to say that "we", being the majority of America, cannot believe and trust in a God? The government is not setting up a religion for which everyone has to adhere by. They are not setting up a church. They are not trying to turn you to Christianity. So they are not fighting for the advancement of a 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.">> In what way is the government participating in a religious group? If the "wall" is so important, then why do we have so many religious references in our government? On the wall of the Supreme Court, the quote,"In God We Trust" is hung. If it is so unConstitutional, wouldn't the Supreme Court have stated that? Wouldn't they have required that the government stop printing money with it on it??? Isn't that the job of the Supreme Court to see what is unConstitutional with what our government does and make sure it is Constitutional? If they have not done anything to change it, then it must be Constitutional! They have had over a century to stop it, but they haven't. Why? Becuase it is constitutional becuase it is not establishing a national religion or advancing one, which is the only thing the Constitution says the government cannot do in this case.

Thank You.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Your.Mom 3 years ago
Your.Mom
Did Cindela even read Tatarize arguements, doesnt really sound like he was part of it. Cindela completely missed the point. not sure he/she won.
Posted by Kleptin 8 years ago
Kleptin
Also fixed.
Posted by Skanarchy 8 years ago
Skanarchy
Cindela goes about this argument in the wrong way because he only citing other references and not giving any real substantive logical arguements.
Posted by Skanarchy 8 years ago
Skanarchy
I shall only tell you if you debate me. Haha.
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
Different reasons? *eye brow raises*? What, pray tell?
Posted by Skanarchy 8 years ago
Skanarchy
Yeah I disagree with you... but for better reasons.
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
Skanachy, you disagree with me? I'd offer to debate you on the topic but I don't really think my rating can take the abuse.

:)
Posted by Skanarchy 8 years ago
Skanarchy
I dont agree with pro, but he clearly won. Come on people vote on who clearly won.
Posted by artC 8 years ago
artC
It's absurd that the Con side is winning this one. Are people even reading this debate??
Posted by Tatarize 8 years ago
Tatarize
Wow. I'm getting crushed? How so? Cindela started phoning it in in the end.

If I'd be hard pressed to assemble an argument that people take "In God We Trust" to be a religious statement in favor of their God than that.

Ouch. Cold. -- At least in some of my other debates the votes were closer than they ever should have been. But this one? Dude.
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