The Instigator
JBlake
Pro (for)
Winning
24 Points
The Contender
bodiedorazio
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

The national motto of the United States should be changed (Two)

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
JBlake
Started: 7/30/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,941 times Debate No: 9082
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (6)
Votes (5)

 

JBlake

Pro

2 Round Debate
72 Hour Rounds
8,000 Character Limit
2 Week Voting Period
Challenge: bodiedorazio

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Resolved, That the motto of the U.S. should be changed.

I propose that the motto of the United States of America be changed from "In God We Trust" back to the original "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin for "One from many").

I will present the case for changing the motto on constitutional as well as on logical grounds. My proposed alternative need not be accepted for me to win this debate.

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Separation of Church and State
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The national motto of the U.S. in its current form reads "In God We Trust". This is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."
(http://www.usconstitution.net......)

This clause has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court by the majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education (330 U.S. 1, 1947) (given by Justice Hugo Black) to mean, among other things:
"...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..."
(Source: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...... Paragraph 16. This portion of Justice Black's ruling can also be found: http://en.wikipedia.org......)

"In God We Trust" clearly violates the Establishment Clause on two counts, as interpreted by Justice Black:
1. The reference to God (the Christian deity) gives preference to theism over non-theism in general and Christianity over non-Christianity in particular.
2. The mere fact that the U.S. national motto is "In God We Trust" can be seen as an attempt by the federal government to influence an individual or to force an individual to profess a belief in theism in general and/or Christianity in particular.

Both of these violate the Establishment Clause as the U.S. Government currently understands it.

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E Pluribus Unum
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The Latin phrase, meaning "one from many", better reflects U.S. history and our current form of government. In short, it makes more sense logically. Below I will explain why.

The separation of church and state was a founding principle, and a principle which has been (more or less) heeded since that time. The national motto should reflect our principles. Since "In God We Trust" is counter to the principle of church-state separation, it stands to reason that this phrase should be removed.

"E Pluribus Unum" is a reflection of our nation's founding and our form of government (Federation). The American Revolution was fought by 13 sovereign states which combined into one central government in 1787 via the ratification of the U.S. Constitution to form the United States. One entity was formed from several individual units. Today we can still see one entity (the U.S.) made up of 50 constituent parts (states). One from many.

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Conclusion
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Because the current national motto of the United States of America violates the U.S. Constitution; and
because there are mottoes that better reflect our history and values:
the resolution, that the motto of the U.S. should be changed, is affirmed.
bodiedorazio

Con

I thank the honourable opponent for the challenge of this debate.

To counter your constitutional arguments;

1. "The reference to God..."

Preference how? In what facets of public life is a God (not only the Christian God) or a religion being preferenced?
In general doesn't cut it.
This preference isn't in legislation. Your leaders do not look to their motto as they govern the country. They may look to their religion, but not their motto. As I see it, there is no preference originating from a rarely quoted motto, none given to anyone or any organisation.

A quote from Judge Alfred Goodwin, a justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion."

This was in regard to "One Nation Under God" in the Pledge of Alliegance, but the point is transferable. In God we Trust doesn't equate to "In Yahweh we Trust" or "In Allah we Trust."
In fact, it encompasses all deities, to suit the multiculturalism and difference and freedom of religion that the constitution provides.
"In we Trust" seems like the intent of the Founding Fathers.

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2. "The mere fact that..."

Note that the motto doesn't violate the Establishment Clause as it literally stands. The Clause forbids the establishment of religion, not the including of religion in a motto. So, literally, the motto is legal and doesn't violate the constitution.

You comment that the motto "can be seen as an attempt by the federal government to influence an individual or to force an individual," however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled (in Aronow v. United States, 1970) that "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."

Your use of a Supreme Court case ruling in your opening validates the use of this one.
Therefore, your ultimatum that the motto does "violate the Establishment Clause as the U.S. Government currently understands it" is false. The Court found that the motto and the slogan are not in violation of any clause, as they do not enforce a religion, and they do lot violate any of the extensions that Justice Black ruled in 1947.

To conclude,

Your argument is possibly built on the premise that the motto is constitutionally invalid, and it most definitely is not. It doesn't violate the Establishment clause as it literally stands, and numerous Justices have ruled that it is not in violation of the clause, and neither is "One Nation Under God."

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On to your logical aspect:

You promote that E Pluribus Unum makes sense logically, more sense than In God we Trust. The American Revolution was made complete by the Declaration. This document was signed by men, who the majority of were deists; they believed in a God. Protestants, Roman Catholics, Church of England, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, and Methodists all were among the signatories to the Declaration. They were not of one religion, but many.

Patrick Henry, when he asked for liberty or death, asked it from Almighty God. Prominent figures like Henry were strong proponents of traditional religion. The Founding Fathers as a whole body considered themselves to be deists or held beliefs very similar to that of deists. This foundation of the country was by men who believed in God, who had trust in God. In God they trusted, and they decided America would to. In your conclusion, you say that there are better mottos that reflect American history and values, however, In God we Trust is among those mottos. While this doesn't negate the validity of E Pluribus Unum as a logical motto, it proves that it isn't the only logical one.

I look forward to the next round.
Debate Round No. 1
JBlake

Pro

I would like to open my second and final round by thanking bodiedorazio for accepting this debate and providing me with a most adequate of responses.

I would also like to introduce a new definition to this debate:

Motto:
1. a short saying expressing the guiding maxim or ideal of a family or organization, esp. when part of a coat of arms
2. a verse or maxim contained in a paper cracker
3. a quotation prefacing a book or chapter of a book [Italian]
(Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com......)

For the purposes of the remainder of the debate, definition 1 seems the most appropriate since the national motto is not a verse in a paper cracker, nor is it a quotation prefacing a book or a chapter.

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Before I begin, I am compelled to correct a rather large error in Con's first round. He claimed that "In we Trust" seems like the intent of the Founding Fathers." However, the phrase originates in the fourth verse of Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled banner. This was written in 1814, a full generation after the founding generation. Therefore, it cannot be said that the founder intended anything by the phrase.

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Court of Appeals (432 F.2d 242 [9th cir. 1970])
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Con's argument rests on the 1970 Court of Appeals Case (Aronow v. United States). In this case, the court found that the national motto does not establish a religion, and therefore does not violate the first amendment.

Here is supposed to be a complete rebuttal of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Establishment Clause. Unfortunately for Con, the U.S. Court of Appeals is not the Supreme Court. The two types of rulings are not synonymous. The Supreme Court, being of higher authority, has the ability to overturn a case in the Court of Appeals. The final word on constitutionality lies with the Supreme Court, not the Court of Appeals. It is important to note, then, that the Supreme Court has never heard a case on the national motto. Let me repeat, the Supreme Court has never heard a case on the national motto. Therefore, this point is negated.

I reaffirm: that the national motto, by the Supreme Court's understanding of the Establishment Clause, is a violation of the First Amendment.

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Preference
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Con claims that 'God' can refer to any god, including Jesus, Vishnu, Zues, or even no god. This is flatly untrue for at least two reasons:
1. The last option is clearly absurd. One cannot profess "In God We Trust" and be referring to no god.
2. The phrase "In God We Trust" clearly refers to a monotheistic deity, being that it uses the singular for God. This limits us to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and some deists.

Most religions (save for the religions listed above), and all non-religions are left out. As we will see below, this constitutes a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution via Justice Black's ruling.

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Violation of the Constitution
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As we have seen above, the motto is referring to a monotheistic religion (or, theism in general). We have also seen, in my first round argument, that the Establishment Clause prohibits the federal government from forcing an individual "to profess belief or disbelief in any religion." Finally, we have seen from the definition of motto provided above, that a motto is "a short saying expressing the guiding maxim or ideal of a family or organization."

In our representative form of government, anything passed by the government is a representation of the populace. So when the federal government officially professes a belief in religion (as they did in making our national motto 'In God We Trust'), the entire population of legal U.S. citizens is professing a belief in religion. Unfortunately, the Establishment Clause (by current understanding) strictly prohibits the federal government from forcing anyone to profess a belief in religion.

Therefore, in forcing the entire U.S. population to profess a belief in religion, the federal government was violating the First Amendment right of anyone who does not fit into the category of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Deism. Therefore, the national motto should be changed because it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution is affirmed.
bodiedorazio

Con

I sincerely apologise for the lateness of my reply, and also for the incorrect Founding Fathers remarks on my behalf. I attribute that to my faulty knowledge of American history, but I do not use that as as an excuse. I am very sorry.

My use of the Aronow decision was not to counter the ruling made by Justice Black, as I understood the Court of Appeals is a lower court.
However, Justice Black ruling was this:
"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"

Your definition of a motto was either "a short saying, a verse or maxim, or a quotation," not a piece of legislation.
1. The motto does not violate the Establishment Clause as the Supreme Court interpreted it in the first sentence.

The second sentence prohibits the forcing of belief or disbelief in any religion.
1. The motto doesn't force any religion. Many American citizens are atheists. They have not been forced to believe in any religion, especially not by the motto.
2. Even if I was to concede that the motto forces anything, it would be a belief in a God, not a religion. While this is arguably a technicality, it still stands that a specific religion is not forced at all.

The fact that the Supreme Court has failed to hear a case regarding this matter only leads us to one thing; precisely that. That the Supreme Court has failed to hear a case on this matter. Until the Supreme Court hears a similar case or hears an appeal, the ruling of a lower court (a ruling made by valid, learned judges) will suffice.

The Aronow decision was an example of how judges do not see the motto as a violation of the constitution.
The Gaylor decision is another:

"After making [inquiries], we find that a reasonable observer, aware of the purpose, context, and history of the phrase "In God we trust," would not consider its use or its reproduction on U.S. currency to be an endorsement of religion." (Gaylor vs USA, 10th Cir. 1996)

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Pro has stated that any legislation passed is representative of the people. While this is true, the legislation passed that made the national motto "In God We Trust," did not force anyone to believe in any religion. While one could argue it forced belief in a God, it most definitely does not force religion. Any American atheist will attest to that.

The motto is "In God We Trust," not "In Catholicism We Trust" or "In Judaism We Trust." It does not force religion on a literal sense. In a legal sense, the motto is valid. Con has shown you in Aronow and Gaylor and many other court cases that judges do not believe that the motto violates the Establishment Clause.
On literal levels and on the highest legal levels possible, Con has proved that "In God We Trust" is not in violation of the Establishment Clause, and should not be changed for this reason.
Debate Round No. 2
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 4 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
You just proved you hadn't addressed it without anyone having to look. Being forced to profess a belief and being forced to believe are two distinct concepts (the form is what Jblake is arguing, the latter is a contradiction in terms).
Posted by bodiedorazio 4 years ago
bodiedorazio
I very much did.

"The second sentence prohibits the forcing of belief or disbelief in any religion.
1. The motto doesn't force any religion. Many American citizens are atheists. They have not been forced to believe in any religion, especially not by the motto.
2. Even if I was to concede that the motto forces anything, it would be a belief in a God, not a religion. While this is arguably a technicality, it still stands that a specific religion is not forced at all."

Many Americans are atheists. They do not believe in God or religion, depite what the Government has said or does say. That, and the quote from my argument above, have addressed your argument more than adequately.
Posted by JBlake 4 years ago
JBlake
You did not address a key portion of my argument: that the motto forces citizens (via their representatives) to profess a belief in religion.
Posted by bodiedorazio 4 years ago
bodiedorazio
Con addressed your argument fully on both levels.
Posted by JBlake 4 years ago
JBlake
Con did not address my argument...
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 4 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"
In fact, it encompasses all deities, to suit the multiculturalism and difference and freedom of religion that the constitution provides."
That's just the thing, there be many religions and nonreligious viewpoints without any deities whatsoever. It establishes the class with, at the expense of the class without.
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