Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

August 29, 2008

Locals respond to ’Net poll on removing ‘In God We Trust’


By Cristin Ross

cross@jacksonvilleprogress.com

It’s time for Americans to put their money where their motto is.

MSNBC.com has launched a “Live Vote” Internet poll on its Web site, asking “should the motto ‘In God We Trust’ be removed from U.S. currency?”

Some Cherokee County residents have gotten wind of the poll via e-mail from others.

“I’ve sent it to probably 50 people already,” Rusk resident Don Vandever said. “And I’ve voted on every computer I have.”

His vote? To keep the motto in plain sight.

“We need to leave it right where it is,” he said, “because that’s exactly what this country was founded on. It was important then and it’s just as important now, if not more so.”

The e-mail includes the Web site link http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10103521/, which computer users can click on to cast their votes.

Of the 7,230,365 votes cast as of 11:45 a.m. Monday, 78 percent of those participating in the poll voted to keep the motto, compared to 22 percent voting to remove it from U.S. currency.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Kevin King, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church-Jacksonville. “I think most people, particularly in this region, have a deep faith and believe this country was founded on that.

“It’s tied to our heritage as much as anything and most people want to see that remain solid in our culture,” King said.

The Daily Progress’s attempts to interview a local atheist were unsuccessful.

MSNBC’s Web site acknowledges the poll is not a scientific survey. Phone messages left at MSNBC offices were not returned as of presstime today.

The poll stems from an Associated Press article, also published on the Web site, chronicling the efforts of Sacramento, Calif., atheist Michael Newdow to get the motto removed.

According to the AP article, Newdow filed a federal lawsuit last week, claiming the motto is “an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”

Congress first authorized a reference to God on a two-cent piece in 1864. The action followed a request by the director of the U.S. Mint, who wrote there should be a “distinct and unequivocal national recognition of the divine sovereignty” on the nation’s coins.

In 1954, Congress inserted the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. A year later, Congress required all currency to carry the motto “In God We Trust.”

“The placement of ‘In God We Trust’ on the coins and currency was clearly done for religious purposes and to have religious effects,” Newdow wrote in the 162-page lawsuit he filed against Congress.

Newdow’s latest lawsuit came five days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected, without comment, a challenge to an inscription of “In God We Trust” on a North Carolina county government building.

In doing so, the justices upheld the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that “In God We Trust” appears on the nation’s coins and is a national motto.

“In this situation, the reasonable observer must be deemed aware of the patriotic uses, both historical and present, of the phrase ‘In God We Trust,”’ the appeals panel ruled in upholding the inscription’s display.

Newdow, a doctor and lawyer, used a similar argument when he challenged the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools for containing the words “under God.” In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he “lacked standing to bring the case because he did not have custody of the daughter he sued on behalf of.”

An identical lawsuit later brought by Newdow on behalf of parents with children in three Sacramento-area school districts is pending with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after a Sacramento federal judge sided with Newdow last September. The judge stayed enforcement of the decision pending appeal, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court.