Michael Newdow, an atheist activist, is pursuing legal action for the second time to have the "In God We Trust" motto removed from U.S. currency. Newdow is a New York attorney, physician and an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church. He filed his latest complaint in Akron, Ohio, on Monday.
"It [the motto] violates the first ten words of the Bill of Rights ('Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion')," wrote Newdow in a guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog, "and it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Unfortunately, because Constitutional principles can be twisted and perverted, the challenges to this practice under the Establishment Clause have, so far, failed."
Newdow's lawsuit, which is 112 pages in length, refers to God as "G-d" throughout, and makes the claim that the presence of the motto on coins and dollars offers an unfair advantage to Christians, thus minimizing atheists.
Newdow filed a previous lawsuit in 2013 regarding the currency imprint, reports The Blaze, in which a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York, Judge Harold Baer, ruled Newdow's argument that the motto violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is not tenable. The plaintiffs included Newdow, his mother, the New York City Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, several families (with children) while the defendants included the U.S. Congress and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, reports Patheos.
In 1997, Newdow started an organization called FACTS (First Atheist Church of True Science), which advocates strong separation of church and state in public institutions, according to online sources. He also serves on the Advisory Board of Secular Coalition for America.
In the past, Newdow also has pursued getting the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance in U.S. public schools declared unconstitutional because it includes the phrase "under God." He also filed and lost a lawsuit to stop the invocation prayer at President George Bush's second inauguration, and in 2009, he filed a lawsuit to prevent references to God and religion from being part of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
Newdow said he believes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act may help atheists win the case to have the motto removed, because the Act states there must be compelling government interest for including "God" on something, such as money. Newdow does not believe there is any "compelling government interest" in this case.
He is joined by 41 plaintiffs this go-around, including the Northern Ohio Freethought Society.
"Imagine if Christians had to carry on their body something they disagree with religiously, like 'Jesus is a lie' -- how long do you think that would stand?" Newdow recently told ThinkProgress.
"But atheists are so denigrated in this society that people accept this without a second thought."
He maintains many people who find the presence of the theistic phrase "offensive" and "unlawful."
Newdow grew up in the Bronx and in Teaneck, New Jersey, where his nominally Jewish family moved in 1960, according to online public figure pages. In Brown University Alumni magazine, he was quoted as saying, "I can't remember ever believing in God. I was born an atheist."