In his September 9 decision, Judge Harold Baer, Jr. ruled that the presence of the national motto on coins and paper money had not created a “substantial burden” on the atheists and humanists involved in the suit, who included members of the New York City Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“While Plaintiffs may be inconvenienced or offended by the appearance of the motto on currency,” wrote Baer, “these burdens are a far cry from the coercion, penalty, or denial of benefits required under the 'substantial burden' standard.”
The case, Newdow, et al., v. U.S. Treasury, was initiated by atheist Rosalyn Newdow, whose son Michael filed a high-profile 2002 lawsuit against the federal government charging that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was a violation of the First Amendment's supposed “separation of church and state,” and injurious to his atheist daughter, who was exposed to the religious wording during the Pledge's regular recital at her school. The case dragged on for two years before the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed it in 2004 on procedural grounds.
Atheists have complained about the existence of “In God We Trust” on currency since it was added in 1955, a year after President Eisenhower signed legislation adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge.
Baer noted that in the federal judiciary's extensive history of hearing cases on the constitutionality of the national motto, judges have considered whether its presence on currency tends to advance religion and whether it represents a excessive government entanglement with religion.
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