GOD ON OUR COINS Written Statement of Jon G. Murray, President, American Atheists, Inc. 72

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******************************************************* GOD ON OUR COINS ******************************************************* Written Statement of Jon G. Murray, President, American Atheists, Inc. 7215 Cameron Road Austin, TX 78752-2973 submitted to U.S. House of Representatives One Hundredth Congress Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage of the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Rep. Frank Annunzio, Illinois, Chairman Supplemental to oral remarks to be given Wednesday, September 14, 1988, at 10:00 A.M. in Room 2128 Rayburn House Office Building at a hearing of the Subcommittee on H.R. 3314, legislation "To modernize United States circulating coin designs of which one reverse will have a theme of the Bicentennial of the Constitution." ******************************************************* Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, American Atheists is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated "to advocate, labor for, and promote in all lawful ways, the complete and absolute separation of state and church." [FOOTNOTE: From the "Aims and Purposes" of American Atheists as recorded in documents of incorporation.] It is with this purpose in mind that our interest has been drawn to H.R. 3314, a bill "to modernize United States circulating coin designs for which one reverse will have a theme of the Bicentennial of the Constitution" now under consideration by the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage. American Atheists are staunch supporters and defenders of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution of the United States. Our Constitution was a pioneer document among the founding documents of nations in that it nowhere contained a single reference to a deity or divine inspiration. Instead it began by rooting its authority in "We the People," a direct and poignant departure from the divine right of kings from which so many of our forefathers fled to these shores. The importance of the doctrine of separation of state and church for all Americans cannot then be overestimated. It was the marriage of state and church that compelled many of the settlers and immigrants to this country to flee their native lands and seek a country where religion was not an integral part of the government. American Atheists, therefore, applauds the introduction of H.R. 3314 in the House of Representatives by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-LA), Rep. Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. (R-SC), and Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-WI). We feel that it is high time that the Constitution of the United States be honored, particularly in its bicentennial year of 1989, by the government of the United States. We have no objection to the coins of the United States being used as a vehicle to commemorate that two-hundredth anniversary. Such a commemoration is secular in nature and is in keeping with the laws of the United States, in particular the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. We do, however, object to the fact that pursuant to 31 U.S.C. Section 324 ("Inscriptions on Coins," May 18, 1908) and 31 U.S.C. Section 324a ("Inscriptions on Currency and Coins," July 11, 1955) the coins proposed by H.R. 3314 would bear upon them the motto "In God We Trust." It is our position that the inclusion of that motto on coins and currency violates the Free Speech, Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in that it is a religious phrase showing that the government has selected and established a particular monotheistic type of religion. Atheists, as other citizens, must carry with them at all times and "present" this religious slogan, presumably as their own, every time they purchase with cash. It, therefore, violates the Free Exercise clause. In addition, Atheists cannot remove this religious slogan because there is a criminal law (18 U.S.C. Sections 331 and 333) prohibiting same, and thus they are denied the right of free speech and equal protection under the laws, being forced to speak the religious words of Congress by repeatedly presenting the religious motto and slogan adopted by the United States Congress. We also find it particularly inappropriate, in conjunction with the thrust of H.R. 3314, to slander the founding document that this bill purports to commemorate by including such religious graffiti as the motto "In God We Trust" along with the designs suggested by the bill. It would be far more in keeping with the nature of the document that H.R. 3314 seeks to commemorate to have the coins on which such commemoration appears remain as secular as the Constitution itself. We would like to propose the substitution of the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" for the motto "In God We Trust." The historical importance of that phrase and its origin was presented succinctly in a paper read at the Annual Convention of the American Numismatic Association, Buffalo, N.Y., August 23 to 28, 1930, by C. W. Foster, entitled "Origin and History of the Two Mottoes Used on Modern United States Coins." The following is the pertinent excerpt. << E PLURIBUS UNUM << The phrase E Pluribus Unum is found in "In <


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