Local atheist’s latest fight will be to halt use of motto on money.
Michael Newdow, the atheist who continues his fight against the Pledge of Allegiance, will open a new front this week in his campaign to purge references to God from government.
He plans to file a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, challenging the national motto: “In God We Trust.”
Newdow wants to remove the phrase from U.S. paper money and coins because he believes it represents a government endorsement of religion.
“We are the nation that gave to the world the establishment that government should not endorse religion and everybody should be what they want,” Newdow said Monday. “And of all the possible choices, we go with the motto of ‘In God We Trust,’ which totally contradicts that tradition.”
One constitutional expert who has closely followed Newdow’s pledge cases doubts that a challenge to the national motto – printed on a range of government buildings in addition to currency – will succeed.
The courts tend to view certain expressions like the national motto as casual religious references that have been around so long they’ve lost religious power, said professor Alan Brownstein, a constitutional expert at the University of California, Davis.
” ‘In God We Trust,’ ” Brownstein said, “is not something that most people look at and even associate as being religious.”
As recently as Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request to review a ruling that the motto’s inscription on the front of a government building in Lexington, N.C., does not violate church-state separation.
Newdow, an emergency room physician who is trained as a lawyer, is also waiting for a federal judge in Sacramento to rule on his request to permanently ban two Sacramento-area school districts from having students recite the pledge.
Newdow filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and families whose children attend schools in Elk Grove Unified and Rio Linda Union after his earlier fight to remove “under God” from the pledge ended last year at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In that case, Newdow’s battle against Elk Grove Unified – where his daughter was a student – ended when the Supreme Court said he lacked standing to pursue the case because he didn’t have custody of his daughter.
As he works on his two legal cases, Newdow is also rehearsing a one-man musical about the U.S. Constitution that he will perform Nov. 22 at Sheldon High School in Elk Grove.
“Our Coruscating Constitution” – coruscating means sparkling – will feature Newdow playing guitar, singing about the “brilliance of our Constitution” and explaining his legal battles, he said.
“My goal is to make people understand what these cases are about,” he said.
Tickets to Newdow’s show can be purchased the night of the performance at Sheldon High School. They are $3 for students, and $5 for adults, Newdow said.