this is a download from AAOS [512-302-0247, 1:382/1006]: Reproduced from the September 198

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this is a download from AAOS [512-302-0247, 1:382/1006]: Reproduced from the September 1988 issue of the _American Atheist_ magazine. ************************************************************ Oral Statement of Jon G. Murray President, American Atheists before House Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage Wednesday, September 14, 1988 concerning H.R. 3314 Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage, I wish to begin by thanking the Chair for inviting me to testify here today. This is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that an open and avowed Atheist leader has addressed a committee of the Congress. I am the President of American Atheists which is a national organization of Atheists and Agnostics with two primary goals: (1) to labor for complete and absolute separation of state and church, and (2) to defend the civil rights of Americans who are Atheists. I am here today because of the concerns of my own constituents that the phrase ``In God We Trust'' might appear on coins commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution. We feel that such an intrusion would be a slander to that great document. The _American Atheist_ organization is twenty-five years old this year and throughout that period we have steadfastly maintained the position that the Constitution of the United States was the first experiment in the Western world to set up a secular government. In the words of the ``Great Agnostic,'' lawyer, orator, and Republican leader Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll in 1860 -- "In 1776 our fathers endeavored to retire the gods from politics. They declared that ``all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.'' This was a contradiction of the then political ideas of the world; it was, as many believed, an act of pure blasphemy -- a renunciation of the Deity. . . . "It was a notice to all churches and priests that thereafter mankind would govern and protect themselves. Politically it tore down every altar and denied the authority of every ``sacred book'' and appealed from the Providence of God to the Providence of man." (From ``God in the Constitution'' by Robert Ingersoll originally published in _The Arena_ in Boston in January 1890. This text is taken from _The New Dresden Edition of the Works of Ingersoll_ [New York City: The Ingersoll Publishers, Inc., 1900]. Having come from nations which were, essentially, theocracies, having seen theocracies develop among the colonies, and noticing the abuse therein, all reference to god and religion were deliberately excluded from the Constitution. The Great Seal of the United States was conceived in 1776 when Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson were given the initial task by Congress of designing it. It was Jefferson who suggested E PLURIBUS UNUM for its motto. That motto survived six years of debate before final adoption by Congress as a part of the Seal in 1782, just five years before the Constitutional convention of 1787. If that motto was good enough for the founding fathers and the Great Seal of the United States, it should be most appropriate for our coins today. ``In God We Trust'' was not suggested at the time period of the formation of our Constitution that H.R. 3314 seeks to commemorate on modern coinage. That phrase was introduced in 1861, some seventy-two years (or three generations of Americans) later, by a member of a fanatical group that sought to convert our nation into an official theocracy. To commemorate the intentions of the founding fathers through coinage, the Constitution alone -- secular in origin, secular in intent, secular in content -- should be commemorated. Only once before has a comprehensive effort been made to redesign our coins, by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s. The artist he chose, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, eliminated the phrase ``In God We Trust'' as an ``inartistic intrusion'' into his designs for the coins and President Roosevelt agreed with the artist so that the coins were issued in 1907 without it. American Atheists understands that the prior laws of 1908 and 1955 are an impediment to the issuance of new coinage without the motto ``In God We Trust.'' Nonetheless we ask that this committee consider making a recommendation to Congress to amend those laws to allow the issuance of _secular_ coinage commemorative of our secular Constitution. We want this committee to know, also, that American Atheists intends to mount new and continued federal legal challenges to the laws of 1954, 1955 and 1956 that placed ``Under God'' in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, ``In God We Trust'' on our coins and currency, and established ``In God We Trust'' as a national motto. These three laws, passed during the height of the hysteria of McCarthyism, are a blemish on Congressional history. I thank you again for the opportunity to present the views of patriotic American Atheists here today. I will be happy to entertain any questions from you Mr. Chairman, or other members of the committee. ************************************************************* Text prepared and distributed by American Atheist Online Services, P O Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195. Voice: (512) 458-1244. BBS: (512) 302-0223. This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of origin credit is given to American Atheist Online Services. -30-


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