Monday, June 04, 2018

6th and 7th Circuits Reject Challenge To "In God We Trust" On Currency

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision rejected claims by a group of plaintiffs-- atheists, humanists and one Jewish plaintiff-- that statutes requiring placing of the national motto, In God We Trust, on currency violates RFRA, as well as protections of free speech, free exercise and equal protection.  In Doe v. Congress of the United States, (6th Cir., May 29, 2018), the majority said in part:
Plaintiffs’ allegations indicate that at least some legislators who voted to enact the currency statutes intended to promote a Christian monotheistic message. However, intent to promote one religion is not necessarily intent to suppress another; Plaintiffs’ allegations do not show a specific governmental intent to infringe upon, restrict, or suppress other religious beliefs. Plaintiffs argue that the currency statutes nonetheless effect suppression of Atheist beliefs by requiring the Government to constantly spread speech that is akin to “Atheists Are Wrong.” But the incidental effect of suppression is permissible under the Free Exercise Clause absent restrictive intent: The laws must have been “enacted because of, not merely in spite of their suppression.”
Judge Moore, dissenting in part, contended that:
All but four of the plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded factual allegations demonstrating that the inscription substantially burdens their religion and have thus pleaded a plausible violation of RFRA....
[T]he thirty-nine plaintiffs who allege that they are required to utilize coins and cash on a regular basis have sufficiently alleged that they face an untenable choice between violating their religious beliefs or being excluded “from full participation in the economic life of the Nation,”
In Mayle v. United States, (7th Cir., May 31, 2018), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that neither the Establishment clause nor RFRA, nor the free speech clause, is violated by the printing the national motto, "In God We Trust", on currency, saying in part:
The inclusion of the motto on currency is similar to other ways in which secular symbols give a nod to the nation’s religious heritage.
In rejecting the claim of plaintiff Kenneth Mayle, an adherent of non-theistic Satanism, the court said in part:
Mayle argues that having the motto printed on currency forces him to choose between using cash, a necessary part of life, and violating his sincerely held religious beliefs. Using the currency makes him feel “guilt, shame and above all else fear,” and those feelings, he contends, qualify as a substantial burden. He likens himself to a fundamentalist Christian baker who would be forced to endorse gay marriage—a practice that violates his religious beliefs—by selling a couple a wedding cake. This term the Supreme Court is considering that baker’s case.... No matter how that case is decided, however, no reasonable person would believe that using currency has religious significance....  [B]ecause using money is not a religious exercise, and the motto has secular as well as religious significance, Mayle has not plausibly alleged that the motto’s placement on currency increases the burden on practicing Satanism.... Mayle’s feelings are not insignificant, but the burden he experiences is not substantial.