Victory: Atheist Attacks against National Motto Dismissed in Federal Court
An Ohio federal district court yesterday dismissed Michael Newdow’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the National Motto. As we previously noted, atheists, represented by Michael Newdow, argued that the mere presence of the National Motto on currency violates their Free Speech and Free Exercise Clause Rights. Plaintiffs asserted that carrying currency equated to governmental compulsion to speak in support of the National Motto and to bear a “religiously offensive” message, in violation of the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
With your support, we filed a critical amicus brief on behalf of 50 Members of Congress, and the Committee to Protect the National Motto, which consisted of over 120,000 ACLJ members, urging the court to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit. We argued that “while the First Amendment affords atheists complete freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact the national motto from the Nation’s currency.”
We also explained to the court that “Plaintiffs’ quarrel is essentially with a foundational principle of America,” and “the national motto simply echoes the principle found in the Declaration of Independence that our freedoms come from God and not the state.” Our brief argues further that neither the free speech rights nor the free exercise rights of atheists are impaired by seeing the National Motto on the currency. Placing the National Motto on currency does not force atheists to do anything. The National Motto is the government’s message and no one would attribute that message to atheists or to any other person who happens to carry money.
The Ohio federal court agreed and dismissed Newdow’s lawsuit. In a very brief opinion that stands as an implicit rebuke to the frivolity of Plaintiffs’ claims, the court ruled that the National Motto burdened neither the Plaintiffs’ free exercise nor free speech clause rights because plaintiffs were not compelled to do anything:
“No reasonable viewer would think a person handling money does so to spread its religious message. A person does not own the bills and coins printed by the United States Treasury. The government does not require citizens to display money. Money does not exist for the express purpose that it be observed and read by the public.”
Joining in our brief were Members of Congress, J. Randy Forbes, Senator James Lankford, Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Steve Daines, Senator Jerry Moran, Robert Aderholt, Lou Barletta, Rob Bishop, Diane Black, Doug Collins, K. Michael Conaway, Kevin Cramer, Jeff Duncan, John Fleming, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Bob Goodlatte, Garret Graves, H. Morgan Griffith, Glenn Grothman, Gregg Harper, Vicky Hartzler, Jody Hice, Richard Hudson, Tim Huelskamp, Randy Hultgren, Bill Johnson, Sam Johnson, Walter Jones, Doug LaMalfa, Doug Lamborn, Robert Latta, Barry Loudermilk, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Tom McClintock, Jeff Miller, Randy Neugebauer, Dan Newhouse, Steven Palazzo, Steve Pearce, Robert Pittenger, Joe Pitts, Tom Price, John Ratcliffe, Peter Roskam, Pete Sessions, Michael R. Turner, Tim Walberg, Mark Walker, and Daniel Webster.
Mr. Newdow and his clients have so far enjoyed a perfect losing streak in federal court challenges to the National Motto, but they remain undeterred. The very same day that the court’s decision came down, Mr. Newdow filed papers notifying the court that he was appealing the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
With your invaluable support, the ACLJ will also remain undeterred in ensuring that Mr. Newdow’s perfect loss record continues. We are already preparing to file an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.