The Instigator
Oishya
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
TheSlenderMan
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

The first amendment Forbids "in god we trust", for good reason

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,402 times Debate No: 32148
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
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Oishya

Pro

This debate is being created in hopes of moving a 4chan debate to a more controlled environment...

The first amendment of the US, the very first one, takes the time to say "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion" And yet, congressionally approved, we have "In God we trust" on our currency. I'm not sure I can see how this isn't a blatant contradiction. This is just the start of our government favoring religion. We have the 10 commandments in the Supreme Court, tax breaks for churches, appeals to natural law in our legislative arguments.... and the public, religious or not, will defend it all the way. Please, my 4chan, opponent, tell me: why?
TheSlenderMan

Con

I accept the challenge. Thanks for the interesting topic.

I am going to state the positions to make sure we are clear. If I am wrong then please inform me in the beginning of the next round.

Pro is arguing that the phrase, "In God We Trust" is a contradiction of the first amendment.

I will hold to the view that the phrase, "In God We Trust" is not in contradiction of the first amendment.

(Are we debating that phrase or are we debating all the other stuff you mentioned such as the 10 commandments as well?) That is up to you.

I also want to state that I am in no way bias (for any religious reason or other) towards having the phrase on our currency or not. So I will not have bias sway my arguments. It will be strictly rational leading the debate not opinion. I'm sure Pro feels the same. This way it can stay professional.

Thanks for this opportunity and I hope we have a great debate in which we both learn something new.
Debate Round No. 1
Oishya

Pro

You are clear on the positions. I will be arguing, basically, to have the phrase removed and you will, in essence, be arguing against that. As for whether the topic is limited to the phrase itself or if it should be expanded, I suppose is up in the air. Perhaps something like: "at what point is the separation of church and state being violated, and at what cost?"

Let me start us off. The United States constitution says, explicitly "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and yet we have it on our money. In fact it is our nation's official motto, as decided by Eisenhower and congress in 1956, usurping the previous motto "E Pluribus Unum", or "From many, one."

An objection Foreseen: "But," you exclaim, "my dear opponent, you have done a hack job on the 1st amendment and left out the next part which reads 'or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,' Does this not grant the government officials the right to express their religion?" No, sir or madam, it does not. Congress does not get to pass legislation (which deciding what goes on our dollars certainly is) 'respecting an establishment of religion.'

A Further Foreseen Objection: "It does not specify which god, in particular and therefore is not respecting a particular establishment." First off I believe this is patently untrue. the capital "G" certainly indicates it is one of the monotheisms and considering this nation is a majority Christian nation, I struggle to believe they meant anything but a Christian God. Furthermore, it clearly establishes the US as a theistically inclined nation. Not only does it, of course, claim there is a God, and thus ignoring its agnostic and atheistic population (Side note: Thomas Jefferson was almost definitely an atheist as was Ben Franklin, and Jefferson was the author of the Establishment Clause), but it is also claiming that God is interested in human affairs and that he prefers one nation over another.

Final Foreseen Objection (This will be my last attempt at divination, I hope): You may site cases such as Aronow v. United States, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, or Zorach v. Clauson to try and show that the Supreme Court has ruled it is not unconstitutional (Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, is actually about the pledge of allegiance [one nation, under god...]) to make reference to Deism as the nation's "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" and most poisonously of all, in Aronow v. United States, the US court of Appeals had this to say "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." justifying it on the grounds that these ceremonies are "protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."
The argument here boils down to two points.

1) The cermony, through use and overuse, has lost all religious value and is merely an act of patriotism.
One, here is reminded of George Orwell's fabulous essay Politics and the English Language, and the infamous 'Newspeak' from 1984. When words lose their meaning, then perhaps it is time to scrap the motto altogether. However, according to a survey done by The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an overwhelming majority find the phrase to be overtly religious. So its either a meaningless statement, or an unconstitutional one....

2) "A sponsorship of Deism is not a sponsor ship of religion." First off, if you are a skimmer of texts please read my fourth paragraph which also deals with this issue. This argument is clearly an embarrassment. The idea that our nation 'presupposes a supreme being' is offensive to the legacy of atheistic and agnostics in this country, including, as stated above in parenthesis, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. We do not need divine authority to know what is moral, and what is lawful. And I believe the opening of our First amendment is a gleaming demonstration that our founding fathers thought the same thing.
TheSlenderMan

Con

Thank you to my opponent for his great post.
You make a good point that the freedom of speech you mention does not allow Congress to pass legislation that contradicts itself (that would be pointless).

You state that the capital "G" has something to do with monotheism and you struggle to believe they meant anything but a Christian God. First of all, it doesn"t matter what they thought, different people can think different things. Roosevelt called it sacrilege, does it mean it's sacrilege because one man claims it's so?
Second, all the letters of "IN GOD WE TRUST" are capitalized so your argument doesn't hold up and we can throw it out.

I do not hold to the fact that the phrase holds as a "respect to a religious establishment". Giving respect to a religious establishment meant that you would give benefits to a particular religion over another or over non-religion. It in no way meant a phrase couldn't be used. Which makes perfect sense seeing where they had come from.

Take this quote from Nationalparalegal,

"The "Establishment Clause" was intended to prevent any governmental endorsement or support of religion. While one might intuitively read this to mean that the clause was meant to preclude endorsement or support of some particular religion, it is important to note that the clause also prohibits the endorsement of religion generally over non-religion. As the Court noted in 1947, "A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government-favored churches." Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 8 (1947). The Court went on to emphasize that "no one group throughout the Colonies can rightly be given entire credit for having aroused the sentiment that culminated in adoption of the Bill of Rights' provisions embracing religious liberty," and that the principles were as apt at the time of the Court's decision as they had been when the First Amendment was originally passed in 1792. Everson at 11.
The Everson Court also provides a list of state actions which violate the Establishment Clause. Everson at 15-16. The Court does not present this list as comprehensive, but rather as a minimal list of activities prohibited by the First Amendment. These include:

-setting up a state church

-passing laws which specifically aid one religion or aid religions generally

-forcing or otherwise influencing individuals to attend or not attend church

-punishing people for ascribing to certain beliefs or disbeliefs or for attending or not
attending church

-taxes levied to support religious institutions or activities

-governmental participation in religious organizations or participation by religious
organizations in governmental activities"

Do I think it should be on money? Nah. But the simple phrase in no way goes against "respecting an established religion." If people are getting up in arms about it, then scrap it. But people have taken the true meaning of what was being said in the Constitution and twisted it. Or they just don't know what"s being said to begin with.

I await your next post.
Debate Round No. 2
Oishya

Pro

Sorry for the belated response.

I will concede one point, as it is irrefutable: All of IN GOD WE TRUST on our currency is capitalized. This is a gross oversight on my part, and I do hope my credibility on further issues will not be tarnished irreparably because of it. You ever get one of those things where you're sure you know, and don;t have to look up? Well..there you go. That's what happens. However, I do not think that was anywhere near the crux of my argument.

I think the key point is actually nicely summarized in my opponents post. "While one might intuitively read this to mean that the clause was meant to preclude endorsement or support of some particular religion, it is important to note that the clause also prohibits the endorsement of religion generally over non-religion." So whether or not the GOD in "IN GOD WE TRUST" was meant to be the monotheistic god is irrelevant. The question then becomes which of these criteria are we offending?
-setting up a state church

-passing laws which specifically aid one religion or aid religions generally

-forcing or otherwise influencing individuals to attend or not attend church

-punishing people for ascribing to certain beliefs or disbeliefs or for attending or not
attending church

-taxes levied to support religious institutions or activities

-governmental participation in religious organizations or participation by religious
organizations in governmental activities"

I think I could make an argument that all of these are being breached in one way or another, by congress, (And I will later) but IN GOD WE TRUST definitely doesn't violate ALL of them. However I believe it is in clear violation of "passing laws which specifically aid one religion or aid religions generally." By changing our nations motto to IN GOD WE TRUST we are, every day, making people remember they live in a nation that considers its self to be deistic. More probably, as I asserted in my earlier argument, theistic (believing god partakes in human affairs). This is a piece of our culture that reinforces deism and theism over atheism or agnosticism and thus aids 'religions generally'.

However IN GOD WE TRUST is a common strawman for the religious to laugh at the secular. "Why," they snide, "do the secularist care what is on our money? Even if it is illegal (which they don't care if it is) Why bother with such a benign thing?" Well, I believe that the the overtly religious motto is just the tip of the iceberg.

So how is congress violating...

Passing laws which specifically aid one religion or aid religions generally?
I argued above that the motto violates this but also tax breaks for churches, which the US freely hands out, are also in clear violation.

Taxes levied to support religious institutions or activities?

The choice of the word 'levied' may make this a hard point to argue, but the tax breaks for churches is certainly against the spirit of this particular stipulation.

Forcing or otherwise influencing individuals to attend or not attend church?

Pete Stark is the first openly atheist member of the US states congress and admitted he was an atheist in 2007. Imagine that. 300 years of history and only recently do we get an atheist congress member? Talk about your cultural influence. There are 525 of members of the House of Representatives at any one time and just one has been openly atheist. That is a percentage, if I must spell it out for you, much lower than the rate of disbelief in the general population. Pete, whenever congress meets, must sit through the congressional Service. Yes. These United states have a congressional chaplain. So poor old Peter (I am really laying on the sympathy, is it working?) must attend a church service if he wants to serve his country... If the non-religious had adequate representation this would be considered a bigger problem than just Pete. To me this is the saddest type of irony. If the minority had more representation, then we would care about separation of church and state...but since they do not, we don't.

governmental participation in religious organizations or participation by religious
organizations in governmental activities

...see above...clearly

punishing people for ascribing to certain beliefs or disbeliefs or for attending or not
attending church

really? 1/535 of our current representatives is a non-believer. In my humble opinion, not being able to serve your country, or not being given a chance, is punishment enough.

Setting up a state church

I saved this one for last, and for good reason, for it is the most abstract argument I will make. Public schools have the children stand up and pledge allegiance under God, our currency has overtly religious mottos inscribes upon it, our congress members have group religious services, on the tax payer dollar, and we are giving tax breaks to churches. This is government funded and just shy of mandated deism. Give the more pious of our representatives a chance and they will use this deistic foundation to mandate Day's of prayer... oh wait... the first Thursday of May.

I do not attend to get 'all up in arms about' our national motto, but I will not participate in the rest of it. I am beginning to regret how narrow the topic is and clearly I have branched out quite a bit. I apologize to my opponent who now has a bit more to chew than he originally bit.
TheSlenderMan

Con

I don't mind belated responses. Many of us have busy lives...I'm sure I'll have many belated responses on this site from time to time.
Yes, sadly I know exactly what you are talking about when you're sure you know something so you don't look it up.

I don't think churches getting tax breaks violates the constitution. They aren't getting it because the government is supporting religion. They are getting tax breaks for being non-profit organizations. The reason behind the tax breaks does not violate the constitution. If the government had the mentality of, "we love religion...here's a tax break to support you." Then yes, it would be a direct violation.

I agree with your "poor old Peter" argument (that is what this argument will now be known as to all who support state/religion separation).
It is fascinating that there are 525 members of the House of Representatives and only one has been openly atheist (I'll assume that is the correct statistic as it does not really affect the argument, especially since we both agree). As I like to say, it's hard to run for office in this country without being religious. President Obama even stated, "Jesus is Lord" during one of his speeches. Many times it's a gimmick for swaying votes. It's almost like society is pushing politicians to keep religion mixed with state and they're like, "Well, if that's what the people want." It's kind of strange.

I do agree on most parts about what you mentioned.

Though the thing I still do not agree with is the phrase "In God We Trust" being a violation to the Constitution. The Constitution never states the the government can do nothing like put a general phrase on a coin. It's putting preventive measures so that the government does not become something that they had finally gotten away from. The phrase in no way prevents or forces one to hold to a certain, or any, religion. Acknowledging a god is not religion. Religion is a structured way to live/worship. Saying "In God We Trust" is in no way more religious than saying, "We Don't Believe In God". The phrase could be summed up as an ideology not religion.

I think it's fine if people want to say they don't like it and want it removed, but I believe saying it violates the constitution is a twisting of meaning.
Debate Round No. 3
Oishya

Pro

My responses are always so late...

Let me try and do justice to your argument: The Original intent of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause was to ensure a nation free of religious oppression not to mandate trivialities like our nations motto. Basically, you are saying that "The phrase in no way prevents or forces one to hold to a certain, or any, religion." And, I think a seperate claim altogether, "Acknowledging a god is not religion."

I do not think the latter is correct. Pedantic reasons:
This is straight from the Merriam-Webster website
1
a : the state of a religious
b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2
: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3
archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4
: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Many definitions are similar if not the same. Clearly deism fits number 4 and whether or not we as a nation are doing a religious practice by changing our nations motto to include god, I suppose is debatable, but nonetheless an acknowledgement of a deistic (or, as I argued earlier, theistic) entity is a religious claim.

As to whether a motto forces anyone to adhere to a particular religion, I think you are correct in saying it does not. However, the state endorsing an idea is a powerful thing. Public speeches are given constantly by politicians under the assumption that, of course, we, the people, will listen to what they have to say. If you are raised in a state that has endorsed deism, you are more likely to be somewhat deistic.

Furthermore, there is no clause in the First Amendment that says Congress shall not respect an establishment of religion THAT FORCES IT ON THE PEOPLE. It is quite clear that there is a wall of separation between the two. In what will now be the immortal words of the all too mortal Christopher Hitchens, "Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall!"

The reason I bring up all the other issues (which are probably more important than this one) in relation to the nations motto is that the changing of our national motto is just a symptom of a much larger problem. A hole in the Jefferson wall. Where things like a congressional Chaplain or superfluously adding 'under god' into our Pledge of Allegiance, and all the way to misrepresenting atheists in congress can slip by unnoticed in a culture that has already determined itself to be theistically inclined.
TheSlenderMan

Con

TheSlenderMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
Oishya

Pro

I wont take this opportunity to make more arguments, as I am looking forward to you addressing the ones I have already made. I was debating someone else and they just didn't get their email that it was their turn to post an argument, so I am hoping this case is similar and that this post will get the email to you.
TheSlenderMan

Con

TheSlenderMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Oishya 4 years ago
Oishya
Anyone can join, at this point.
It was originally supposed to be a spillover from 4chan, but no one took the bait, so please feel free to join in.
Posted by TheSlenderMan 4 years ago
TheSlenderMan
Are you waiting for a specific opponent or can anyone accept?
No votes have been placed for this debate.