The U.S. Supreme Court says it won't take up the latest legal dispute over the phrase "In God We Trust" being on America's currency – and that's "great news," says a constitutional attorney.
"… When the Supreme Court decides not to take a case, it does not mean that it rules on the merits of the case," explains Mat Staver, founder and chairman of religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel. "But a number of courts have already ruled on the merits that the national motto 'In God We Trust' on our currency is constitutional – and that's what the federal court of appeals did as well."
He's referring to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota, the lower court that had previously ruled that the phrase "does not compel citizens to engage in a religious observance" and dismissed the case.
Activist Michael Newdow filed the lawsuit on behalf of atheists, the argument being that putting the nation's motto on U.S. money is a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. But that doesn't constitute an establishment of religion, says Staver.
"No government is forcing anyone to adhere to a particular religion or doctrinal belief by virtue of our national motto. It is simply part of our history and our heritage," says the attorney. "[It] has been on all U.S. currency for more than 60 years and it will remain there, despite ridiculous attempts by atheists to remove it."
In 2004, Newdow unsuccessfully fought against the Pledge of Allegiance for including the phrase "under God."
"This is not the last we're going to hear from them, but we have to continue to beat them back and fight and win these cases, one after another," says Staver. "We cannot ever relax and we always must remain vigilant to protect our freedom."
In 2013, Newdow and the Freedom From Religion Foundation lost a similar case when a federal district court dismissed their lawsuit that argued the national motto on U.S. currency violates the Establishment Clause. He and other atheists came up short again in December 2016.