May 22, 2005

"In God We Trust" can't violate the Establishment Clause, can it?

It's on the coins and the Supreme Court has referred to it numerous times as exemplifying the minimal, generic references to God that must be acceptable in public life. But what if public officials keep enlarging the motto and putting it everywhere?

11 comments:

Sandi said...

God is in the the temples of government everywhere, and always has been.

US Supreme Court (back) is a bas relief of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Moses with the Ten Commandments is inside the Supreme Court's courtroom.

A carving of Ten Commandments on doors of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moses with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Library of Congress.

The Ten Commandments are in the floor of the National Archives.

The Adams Prayer Mantel in the White House.

A stained glass window of George Washington praying, in the chapel in the U.S. Capitol.

A memorial plaque from the Free Press Methodist Episcopal Church inside the Washington Monument.

Sculpture of Ten Commandments in front of the U.S. district court building.

Muhammad inside U.S. Supreme Court.

Thats not even a start, and many more examples here.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but my question is, what if these existing examples are multipled, enlarged, plastered everywhere. You would never say it's too much?

HaloJonesFan said...

I wouldn't think it was too much, unless someone was attempting to use the government's money to shove God in my face every time I look at something. I don't have a problem with government officials admitting that they are human, and subject to human foibles and inaccuracies. I do have a problem with someone using the government to prosyletize.

I guess what I'm going for is that if someone uses "In God We Trust" as a statement of their faith, then fine. If they use it as a command, or as a statement of what they think everyone else should feel...that's different.

downtownlad said...

Intent matters.

When they start platering it in huge letters, they obviously are trying to establish a government endorsement of religion, and a discouragement of atheism/agnostocism.

Why people think this is the job of the government and not our churches and temples and mosques is beyond me.

All of these things, "in God we trust", "under God" in the pledge, etc. were all added well after the founding of this country. The former during the civil war, and the latter in the 1950's. I highly doubt our forefathers would have approved.

Matt said...

It's hard to say with any definitiveness what the "Founding Fathers" collectively would have viewed the situation, and it's only marginally less difficult to say how any individual Founding Father would have viewed the situation.

I'm a relative absolutist on the First Amendment, but I do buy the "long-established ceremonial deism" doctrine articulated in Marsh v. Chambers (the legislative chaplains case). The key is that it has to fit both tests--both "long-established" and "ceremonial." Things like the reliefs on SCOTUS and the "God save this honorable court!" pass, but a 2-ton monument placed in 2003 specifically for the purpose of "acknowledging God!" does not. It's those cases in the middle (like the Pledge) that are the hard ones.

I'm generally inclined to think that the Pledge as changed probably poses constitutional problems, but don't think it's a gigantic thing worth having a massive fight for.

Synova said...

"When they start platering it in huge letters, they obviously are trying to establish a government endorsement of religion, and a discouragement of atheism/agnostocism."

The same (and opposite) would be true of attempts to remove all public/government references.

I think there is a common sense difference between "present" and "in your face." Plastering in large letters all over the place, *now*, would certainly be percieved as trying to make a point.

Sorta similar but opposite, of the point being made by people pushing to remove existing refernces or religious symbols.

And absence of references and symbols doesn't reflect this country's religious diversity. It does nothing at all to make minority religions feel welcome to express theirs.

Synova said...

It's been way too hot today and I suspect I'm only marginally coherent.

In case it wasn't clear, that was an agreement. :-)

downtownlad said...

I agree. Leave the motto on the coins. Who cares. It's innocuous.

But if we start putting it in new places, like on the side of every fighter jet, or on the tax forms, etc., or in really big letters, then intent matters and it should be struck down.

I don't think even the ACLU is too concerned about this. They have bigger fish to fry.

Murky Thoughts said...

This is such a no-brainer I have to wonder what motivates the post.

Assertions about the nation's or its citizen's relationship to "God," if any, shouldn't be on coins or in our pledge. The government is not in the "God" business. It's in the protection of liberty business. If the government is going to engage in any kind of indoctrination, it should be toward that end.

Murky Thoughts said...

It might also be pleasantly innocuous to put on the coins

"We don't pick our noses in public"

but because the constitution protects our right to pick our noses in public and frees the national culture to evolve into one of public nose picking, we shouldn't put such a message on the coins.

DannyNoonan said...

Sandi said...
"God is in the the temples of government everywhere, and always has been.

US Supreme Court (back) is a bas relief of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Moses with the Ten Commandments is inside the Supreme Court's courtroom.

A carving of Ten Commandments on doors of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moses with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Library of Congress.

The Ten Commandments are in the floor of the National Archives.

The Adams Prayer Mantel in the White House.

A stained glass window of George Washington praying, in the chapel in the U.S. Capitol.

A memorial plaque from the Free Press Methodist Episcopal Church inside the Washington Monument.

Sculpture of Ten Commandments in front of the U.S. district court building.

Muhammad inside U.S. Supreme Court."

I never understood this kind of argument. WHy do people think it's so important that we cure all evils of the same genus at teh same time, or none all. Yeah, this is a list of other things that are baltently unconstitutional but just because they havn't been corrected yet, doesn't mean that we can't correct "In God We Trust" right now.