Whoever [damages] any [money] issued by any [official source], with intent to render such [money] unfit to be reissued, shall be [punished].
Lucky me that's not what I'm doing.
I want these one-dollar bills and five-dollar bills and ten- and twenty-dollar bills to go out into the world. I want every dollar of this money to change hands a hundred times. I want every person who lays eyes on a bill I've touched to take a good look at what I did to it, and to have a good think about why I did it.
Every dollar bill that passes through my possession leaves with a permanent-marker line through the words 'In God We Trust', and the penned note in the margin, 'wheresgeorge.com'.
The wheresgeorge.com bit isn't the important part. I'm curious about where the money goes after it leaves my hands, that's all. No, the important part is that with my deletion of the national motto, the design is in compliance with the plain text of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The US courts have considered this motto's constitutionality three times. Aronow v. United States in 1970 says that '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. In 1979, Madalyn Murray O'Hair sued in the Fifth Circuit, and the Fifth Circuit referred to the Ninth Circuit opinion above. The Freedom From Religion Foundation tried again in the Tenth Circuit in 1994, and the case was dismissed without trial, based on similar reasoning. The Supreme Court declined to review all three cases.
What that tells me is that the judges in all three cases and on the Supreme Court in all three instances are soaking in the privilege inherent in being a monotheist in the US. Being a US monotheist is natural and normal, they think. Getting Good Friday off work is the way things ought to be. They don't mean anything religious by the phrase "In God We Trust", therefore no one does.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". It's right there in plain language in the First Amendment.
That means that Congress cannot declare the country officially Methodist to the exclusion of Presbyterians and Baptists, nor Protestant to the exclusion of Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox—the whole country's with me here. Nor can Congress declare the country officially Christian to the exclusion of Jews and Muslims—here I start losing people by the truckload. Nor can Congress declare the country officially monotheist to the exclusion of polytheists and atheists—here I lose everyone who isn't polytheist, atheist, or sympathetic to the non-monotheist cause.
Or put it another way. "In God We Trust". Which god? Allah? Zeus? Vishnu? Erzulie Freda? Invisible Pink Unicorn?
'We' in the national motto includes, must include, literally everyone in the nation. But "In God We Trust" makes a point of excluding everyone who believes in many gods, or no god, or a single female god. Everyone, that is, except monotheists.
The phrase "In God We Trust" might have lost all religious meaning to many monotheists, but for the rest of us, the religious meaning is very much alive, and painful, and declaring that phrase our national motto is a declaration akin to "One Nation Under God, love it or leave it". If we are not monotheists we are not American, is what "In God We Trust" on the currency tells us, and far too many people think that's either not happening or a perfectly acceptable or indeed desirable state of being.
Contrary to popular belief, the US is not a Christian nation. Only seventy-eight percent Christian. Sixteen percent unaffiliated, two-thirds of whom are nonreligious, and five percent less popular religions; one percent declined to answer.
Seventy-eight isn't one hundred. In God we do not all trust.
Having "In God We Trust" on the money I use to buy my pizza is an unconstitutional violation of the religious freedom of more than one in five US citizens, myself included. That's why I take that phrase off every dollar bill I touch. (I'd hit the coins, too, but I don't know if the ink would stay.)
If we must have the national motto on the money, we should revert to having the national motto be 'e pluribus unum'. Out of many—Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Mormon, Orthodox, Reform, Sunni, Shia, Vaishavism, Shaktism, Zen, Theravada, Shinto, Bahá'í, Vodou, Santería, Asatru, Hellenic Reconstructionism, Wicca, Unitarian Universalism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism—
Out of many, one.
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