A prominent atheist is again on a quest to remove the motto ‘In God We Trust’ from American currency after losing attempts to do so thus far, and is now seeking to use the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in his strategy.
As previously reported, atheist Michael Newdow, who has filed numerous suits challenging the mixture of God and government, first submitted a complaint in the Southern District of New York in March 2013, asserting that the motto violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution as it serves to proselytize unbelievers.
But in September of that year, U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer, Jr., nominated by Bill Clinton, rejected Newdow’s arguments, opining that “the inclusion of the motto on U.S. currency . . . does not violate the Establishment Clause [of the Constitution].”
He consequently appealed his case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, but last May, the court likewise ruled against the prominent atheist.
“The Supreme Court has recognized in a number of its cases that the motto, and its inclusion in the design of U.S. currency, is a ‘reference to our religious heritage,’” it wrote. “We therefore hold, in line with the Supreme Court’s dicta, that [the motto appearing on currency does] not violate the Establishment Clause.”
Now, Newdow is seeking plaintiffs for seven new lawsuits—one in seven of the twelve federal circuits—that challenge the motto from a different angle—the federal RFRA signed in the 1990s by then-President Bill Clinton.
“[C]hallenges to this practice under the Establishment Clause have, so far, failed,” he wrote in a recent guest post on Patheos. “Challenges under RFRA, however, are not as susceptible to misapplication. This is because every Supreme Court justice involved in the three RFRA cases heard to date has agreed that, under RFRA, religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”