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Is it OK to deface currency to "defend the First Amendment"?
September 8, 2002 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Is it OK to deface currency to "defend the First Amendment"? Putting aside for the moment your opinions on their agenda, do you feel that their approach is appropriate? Is placing slogans on U.S. Bills ever an acceptable act of civil disobedience? In what hypothetical situation would you be supportive of this unorthodox protest method?
posted by EmoChild (78 comments total)

 
I first read it as "God OF Money", not "God OFF Money"
posted by matteo at 12:53 PM on September 8, 2002


you kin burn our flags, hippy, but gawd help if you deface the currency, boy.
[hawks loogie, swigs from jug]
posted by quonsar at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2002


Same thing, completely different purpose.

Love your scare quotes around "defend the first amendment."

Apparently the line is drawn when one defaces money with the intent to render it unfit to be reissued. This is hardly the case here. The whole idea is to get the message out. I'm ambivalent about it, because no matter how much I agree with the sentiment, I think this is a dangerous trend. I do not want to see advertisements stamped on my money, but I expect it to happen any day now.
posted by frykitty at 1:03 PM on September 8, 2002


Perhaps that is a good way to think about it, matteo. I trust the God of Money much more than the fickle and violent YHWH or Allah or Shiva any old day. I just wish He would bless me with His bounty more often.

On the issue of defacement, I think this sort of thing is defacement. Currency does not belong to the holder, it is public property, a symbolic note that will pass through many other hands after yours. Why should a piece of public property be forever imprinted with your pet cause? It would be similar to spray painting a slogan and web address on the Capitol building. There are many other ways for this organization to get the word out about their cause without defacing the currency. This just seems like a ploy to sell rubber stamps.
posted by evanizer at 1:05 PM on September 8, 2002


"In God We Trust" first appeared on paper money in 1957 (see previous thread), one year after it'd been declared the national motto of the United States. I mean, clearly this goes against separation of church and state. (It's odd that people who claim to love America and all it stands for seem to want to turn it into a Christian country.) It's about time the treasury kills the phrase, and as long as the currency isn't so defaced as to be useless, why not?
posted by bwerdmuller at 1:09 PM on September 8, 2002


In Atlanta about 10 years ago I remember seeing bills stamped with 'LESBIAN MONEY' circulating. I found that mildly amusing, but I think it would be adverse if too many people adopt this method of communication - imagine cluttered bills stamped with 'LOSE WEIGHT NOW - ASK ME HOW' and 'U.S. OUT OF MIDDLE EAST' and what not all in your wallet.

Also, this probably isn't very effective at reaching people - I imagine the banks dend defaced currency in for destruction when they get it. Why not walk around wearing a T-shirt or something to spread your message?
posted by crunchburger at 1:09 PM on September 8, 2002


do you feel that their approach is appropriate? Is placing slogans on U.S. Bills ever an acceptable act of civil disobedience?

Since when is currency sacred? I can't think of a *better* symbolic protest than scrawling, stamping or otherwise adding to money. Some queer folks have been stamping "queer money" on currency for a while.

Upon preview, frykitty's point has also been discussed at positiveatheism.org. Since the posted site's apparently down, here's another one about Removing God From Your Money.
posted by mediareport at 1:12 PM on September 8, 2002


similar to spray painting a slogan and web address on the Capitol building
[lightbulb illuminates dialog balloon over quonsar's head as he begins to wonder who he knows in lansing...]
posted by quonsar at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2002


Where the hell are you all finding money that isn't defaced? It seems like every bill in my wallet has a slogan or a doodle or limerick on it. The other day, I received a bill as change that exhorted me to "track where this bill has been, see where it goes, log on to www.somewebsite.com."

Yeah, given the choice, I'd take a bill "defaced" by someone fighting the good fight--even if we aren't on the same side.
posted by kjh at 1:25 PM on September 8, 2002


i got a one dollar bill a few years ago with "Clem's Gas Money" scrawled across it. i will keep it forever.
posted by marling at 1:31 PM on September 8, 2002


kjh: probably 'wheresgeorge.com' or something.

Anyway, yeh. At what point wouldn't we aprove of defacing money? As long as it still holds its value, who cares?

(Just don't try it in turky...)
posted by delmoi at 1:33 PM on September 8, 2002


157% behind this idea.

Hey, it's kind of funny. Doesn't anyone have a sense of humour anymore? Geez.

Go for it I say.

Stamping something on a dollar bill is in no way akin to spray painting the capitol building.
posted by damnitkage at 1:35 PM on September 8, 2002


ok, so can someone explain to the foreigner why "defacing" money is considered morally wrong by (apparently) some americans?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2002


I'm a pretty big believer in completely-uncensored free expression (though I think evanizer has a point that money is public property and not owned by any one person.)

While sorting out these issues, I find it helpful to think of the worst, most racist, nasty, offensive sort of slogan I can imagine. Imagine hundreds of dollars with "KILL ALL NIGGERS" stamped across them. This kind of thought experiment is helpful if you're trying to decide where you stand on a free speech issue.
posted by grumblebee at 1:54 PM on September 8, 2002


Thinking up the worst possible case for a free speech issue is most definitely not helpful in sorting out anything. I can imagine Metafilter imploring us to protest corporal punishment in schools: sodomize a nun today, the TV being used to tell us keep America strong: kill the homeless or skywriters displaying WWJD? Kill all towelheads! but I won't pretend that any of these possibilities would make me want to ban Metafilter, television or skywriting.

When used in this manner money is just a form of media, like any other form of media a variety of ideas can be expressed whether they be noble, horrifying or inane.
posted by substrate at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2002


[quonsar rummages through drawer looking for that old KILL ALL NIGGERS stamp]
posted by quonsar at 2:16 PM on September 8, 2002


I don't really care if people stamp/write/draw stuff on money. On the other hand, I think that it's kind of stupid. Honestly, no one is going to pick up one of these bills and say, "by golly, you're right. Church and state DO need to be separate. Why didn't I think of this before?"

It kind of smacks of the sort of pointless crap that people pull when they're in a high school civics class. You know the kid who wrote ANARKY NOW on all of the desks? If you can't do something useful for a cause you believe in, why not do something annoying that doesn't require you to get out of your chair?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2002


I guess in my opinion, this is such a trivial form of protest regarding a trivial issue that I am uncertain as to what there is to discuss? The money issue is not nearly as odious as transforming the Pledge of Allegiance in order to become a government endorsement of monotheism (something that got left out of most of the coverage of the pledge issue was the fact that the original a lot of revising the pledge was very explicit about its establishment of Christian monotheism) and forcing it on schoolchildren. Nor is it as critical as attempts to put fundamentalist Christian theology at the core of science education. Of all the many things to take a stand on, the money is close to bought some on my list.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:29 PM on September 8, 2002


In Atlanta about 10 years ago I remember seeing bills stamped with 'LESBIAN MONEY' circulating.

I saw some "GAY MONEY" circulating in Detroit about the same time. I found it mildly amusing but mostly perplexing. Money can't be gay (it reproduces asexually, by means of compound interest), so I'm not sure what whoever stamped that message on it was actually trying to say. Was it a warning not to actually carry the bill in my back pocket, lest it attempt to sodomize me?

And I saw a Where's George dollar just last week. Unfortunately, I had to spend it before I had a chance to see where it had been.
posted by kindall at 2:29 PM on September 8, 2002


seem to want to turn it into a Christian country

It says "In God We Trust" not "In Jesus We Trust"

So don't make this a "Crazy Right Wing Christian Thing"
With the exception of the 2% of Americans that are Atheists, that covers everyone, not just Christians.

Personal I think it is wrong to deface any thing. But maybe that is just me. If this group of Americans think they have a case that the motto should be removed or changed, there are better ways to start a discussion than defacing money.

And to every one that keeps shouting about "separation of church and state" let me point out two things:

1. This was to keep the government from forming a state run church. It does not say that religion can not be involved in government whatsoever, that is just liberals interpretation of it.

2. Let me remind you what Theodore Roosevelt once said:
"The Constitution was made for the people and not the people for the Constitution"
And if you can not understand that, then you have no place talking about the Constitution.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:30 PM on September 8, 2002


LittleMissCranky: why not do both? Presumably the more frequently your cause is seen, the better. Just another form of advertising, really.
posted by bwerdmuller at 2:31 PM on September 8, 2002


substrate, the I suggested thinking of something really offensive because it's easy (for many of us) to confuse a love of free speech with a love of being able to say whatever we want. Real free speech means allowing views we hate.
posted by grumblebee at 2:36 PM on September 8, 2002


Why not go the whole hog and print your own money?
posted by ceiriog at 2:41 PM on September 8, 2002


Here's another scenario to think about, what if you violently disagree with the message written on the money? What if a dollar bill says, "kill a fag" would I be comfortable using that money so that other people see that message? probably not, this message effectively costs me $1. I do not want people to be able to charge me money when I don't agree with what they have to say.

Another scenario, I used to be a cashier, very occasionally people get old dirty money and don't want to take it, this is unacceptable for the cashier system. What if you started getting people wanting different money because of the message? That's a nightmare.

It's not at all clear that this isn't defacing the money. The treasury site says you can't do things "with the intent to render it unfit to be reissued" That doesn't mean much, so functionally the law is that you can't do anything on purpose that would require it to be reissued. I may want to write a nice story on city hall, the fact that I want it to stay there has no bearing, it would have to be removed. Likewise, without knowing the guidelines of reissuing money you can't be sure this isn't breaching the law.

It's an attractive and easy way to get a message across, but I don't think it will do any good. It will do a lot of harm though if it become widespread, I don't want money with a message.

andrewcooke, is defaced money common in other parts of the world? I think it's more a practical thing than moral. Defaced money has to be replaced, and that costs money.
posted by rhyax at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2002


It says "In God We Trust" not "In Jesus We Trust"

Except that the explicit purpose of these additions was to specifically endorse Christianity as the official religion of the united states government. The laws putting it in the pledge were quite specific that they did not have some mushy pantheist ecumenicism in mind.

In addition most of the focus is on the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law regarding an Establisment of religion or prohibiting free practice thereof") (note that establishment meant more than just giving funds to churches in the 18th century, but also promoting specific ceremony and liturgy as well) but what about the body of the constitution that prohibits religous tests?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:52 PM on September 8, 2002


Whether or not it's legal to deface money this way, I don't think it's a free speech issue. Stamping your message on money isn't protected speech, IMHO, since currency wasn't designed for it, and there are plenty of other ways to get your message out.

That said, I couldn't care less if people decide to stamp a (non-commercial) message on their bills. It's a harmless exercise and it's cheap entertainment.
posted by RylandDotNet at 3:03 PM on September 8, 2002


Except that the explicit purpose of these additions was to specifically endorse Christianity as the official religion of the united states government.

Please point out where exactly it says that "Christianity" is the official religion of the United States, or that it was intended to be. (Never mind the fact that "Christianity" covers many denominations), or is that just your interpretation of it?

Why don't slow down and read what you wrote and take it in word by word:

Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion so in other words there can be no Church of USA or prohibiting free practice thereof nor can the government stop you from worshiping or not how ever you like (note that establishment meant more than just giving funds to churches in the 18th century, but also promoting specific ceremony and liturgy as well)"In God we trust" is not a specific ceremony or liturgy, it is a general as you can get.

You agree with me, you just don't know it.

All the Constitution says it that the government can not tell you who or how to worship. Nothing else.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:06 PM on September 8, 2002


It says "In God We Trust" not "In Jesus We Trust"... With the exception of the 2% of Americans that are Atheists, that covers everyone, not just Christians. *smile* I know a ton of people who aren't Atheists who would say that "God" does NOT cover "Goddess". But I think it would be funny to put "In Goddess We Trust" on bills - gives a whole different perspective/feel to the entire idea and its assumptions.
posted by thunder at 3:09 PM on September 8, 2002


Funny you mentioned Roosevelt
In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt, a religious man who was offended by the motto's appearance on grubby coins, ordered it omitted from newly redesigned $10 and $20 gold pieces. Placing the phrase on coins was "irreverence which comes dangerously close to sacrilege," Roosevelt wrote in a 1907 letter to a New York pastor.

From
http://www.dispatch.com/news/features01/jan01/566590.html
posted by EmoChild at 3:11 PM on September 8, 2002


EmoChild: Read the next paragraph:

Congress, responding to public criticism of the godless 1907 and 1908 coins, declared in early 1908 that the motto must be added to "all such gold and silver coins as heretofore."

For the people, by the people, and of the people.

Weather you want to admit it or not, a Majority of Americans belive in God in some form or another, and do not have a problem with the motto. And that is what TR was getting at; The people of the United States will decide was is good for themselves.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:25 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve: This was to keep the government from forming a state run church. It does not say that religion can not be involved in government whatsoever, that is just liberals interpretation of it.

I guess by liberals you meant to say founding fathers.

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises."--Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Miller, 1808
posted by skallas at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2002


Frankly - I would prefer "In a god We Trust" or "In Deitay we trust", or something similar... the reality is that inso much as people would like to beleive that there is a very small minority of "other" religion practitioners, there are more than people are led to beleive.. .weather some Pagan denomination (Hindi, Buddist, neo-pagan, etc), or somehting else. And the fact that the phrase is specific in using a singular pronoun, and capitalized, at the very least, is taken as a stand, by the government, for a mono-theistic religion.

And since what I just wrote really wouldn't make the athiests or agnostics comfortable... why not just remoe the phrase altogether...

and on preview... "The people of the United States will decide was is good for themselves." while I beleive in the democratic system, this is akin to mob rule...
During WWII, the people decided it was alright to put people of asian decent into interrment camps... going by your anology, that would be OK, because the people said so?
posted by niteHawk at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2002


niteHawk, you are right, I really do need a small group of my "betters" telling me what to do.

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises."--Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Miller, 1808

100% correct, the government can not tell you who to worship or how to worship...

Still nothing about the banishment of religion in the government, just the prohibition of a government religion. There is a difference.

"As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."
From your link... Thanks!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:54 PM on September 8, 2002


Whether or not it is unethical, its certainly an attention-getter. During my years as a grocery store cashier, I saw many interesting things stamped and written on currency. My all time favorite is still the stamped speech bubble coming from George Washington's mouth, with the exhortation "I Grew Hemp".
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 4:02 PM on September 8, 2002


With the exception of the 2% of Americans that are Atheists

Or 14.1%, depending who you listen to.
posted by rushmc at 4:04 PM on September 8, 2002


Not subscribing to a religious identification is hardly atheism.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:11 PM on September 8, 2002


Yeah, I'll belive atheists.org about the percentage of the population that is atheistic them as soon as I get my numbers from the Christian Coalition about the percentage of Americans that oppose abortion. No way anyone "poll" a target group or fudged the numbers there.
/sarcasm
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:14 PM on September 8, 2002


It does not say that religion can not be involved in government whatsoever, that is just liberals interpretation of it.

Correct. And it does not say that religion can be involved in government either. That is just conservatives' interpretation of it. Thank God we have the terms liberal and conservative so we can pigeon hole each other's beliefs without having to, you know, think about them and stuff.

To be fair, Steve at Linwood, you have put in a well reasoned argument and have backed it with some evidence, so hats off to you for that. As a Satanist, I don't mind you putting "In God We Trust" on your coins as long as you don't mind me using those coins to buy goat's blood for my dark rituals. Thanks!

Back to topic, I always thought that the "do not deface money" rules were akin to the "don't rip this tag off your mattress" rules. Like Andrew Cooke, I am not sure why these laws exist (though rhyax's theory makes sense). Anyone know the actual origin? I'm finding nothing useful on Google...
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:16 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve: Still nothing about the banishment of religion in the government, just the prohibition of a government religion. There is a difference.

A government religion is religion in the government. That isn't too hard to comprehend. The seperation ethic cuts both ways I'm afraid. You're just splitting hairs here.

Again more "liberals" against mixing church and religion.

Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800:

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and engrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."

James Madison in a letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who stayed awake in history class. The early colonists were fleeing horrible european theocracies. The seperation ideal has just as much to do with avoiding theocratic elements (christian mottos on money, public vouchers to religious schools, etc) as to protect the speech and legal actions of the religious. I think you're only focusing on the latter in an attempt to make a very thin straw man argument.
posted by skallas at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2002


And it does not say that religion can be involved in government either.

Joey, thank you for pointing that out, that is the grey area in were we are mucking around.

A government religion is religion in the government. That isn't too hard to comprehend. The separation ethic cuts both ways I'm afraid. You're just splitting hairs here.

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and engrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."


No, I am not. A government religion is a religion funded by the government, sanctioned by the government, and instructed by the government. There are no clergy established by law. There is no Church of The Holy United States. What is so hard to understand about that?

This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who stayed awake in history class.
Yes, it should be, did you? Take a look at the early Puritans, they didn't want separation of Church and State, they just wanted it to be their Church and State. The argument that early colonists left Europe to have freedom from government mixed with religion is a pipe dream created by people with romanticized history about this country (See: Lil'George chopping down the cherry tree)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2002


i don't mind one way or another if the us currency has the words "in god we trust" written on it. however, if this somehow comes to impact how politicians make laws and such, then i would draw the line [if for some instance they cited the line on the currency to back up their position].

i have seen one dollar bills with a little bubble [like in a cartoon] coming from george washington's mouth that says "i grew hemp." that seemed somehow fun to me.
posted by zorrine at 4:38 PM on September 8, 2002


Y'know, if the government were to put on all currency the phrase, "Happiness is a warm puppy," I'm sure somebody somewhere would be offended by it. Then there'd be people out there who would deface the currency by scratching out "puppy" and writing in the word "gun."

There's simply no way to win, here.

On the way home last night, I saw a billboard on the highway. It was all black with big white letters saying, "IN GOD WE TRUST. UNITED WE STAND." And I'm an American. I'm even a Christian, though just barely. For some reason I found myself taking offense to that billboard. Not necessarily on my behalf, but on behalf of anyone who would agree with the second statement but not necessarily the first. I understand that America includes aetheists and agnostics and pagans and satanists. I may not agree with their sentiments and belief structures, but I wanna stand united with them too, even if we're not in agreement with everything.

It's kinda exclusive, doncha think? I don't agree with the idea of taking "In God We Trust" off the one dollar bill. However, I can understand that some people would feel like they're somehow being singled out as less American or even UnAmerican simply because they differ from the alleged mainstream norm, and I for one wish there was some way to alleviate them of that concern, without actually taking that phrase off the money. People shouldn't take that the wrong way, but I can understand why they do.

Oh. And I took the five singles in my wallet, defaced them with the wheresgeorge.com URL, and registered them with that website, just for grins. Sounds like fun. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 4:38 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve: Take a look at the early Puritans, they didn't want separation of Church and State, they just wanted it to be their Church and State.

Granted, but you're taking that out of context. My point is that the fear of theocracy (read some Paine or Madison) is probably what's behind the separation clause more than anything and a proper way to defend against theocracy is to not establish a national religion, but at the same time a theocracy or quasi-theocratic government can be established though religious elements in government. Just look at these upcoming bills, sounds a little too theocratic for my tastes and I'm sure the "liberal" founding fathers wouldn't have approved. As a country we are also failing to protect religious positions from the tyranny of the majority. Right now seven state consitutions will not allow non-believers to hold office. Non-belief is a religious position, yet there you have it. Hey, people in DC pay taxes without representation too.

Also, its curious how you defend religious mottos on currency because it is the 'will of people' yet you accuse "liberals" of fabricating a perfectly good interpretation of the separation clause. Regardless, the separation clause will probably be redefined by SCOTUS until the day the republic collapses, but that doesn't mean that its scope is as small and narrow as you make it out to be. What you call the 'liberal interpretation' may be or is already the most popular definition of the clause. Again not only does the clause cut both ways, but so does the will of the people.
posted by skallas at 5:01 PM on September 8, 2002


With the exception of the 2% of Americans that are Atheists


2% of Americans = aprox. 5,535,367 people.

for comparison: population of New York = 7,392,064.
posted by grumblebee at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2002


/shrug.

I suppose position on this issue is defined by what extent you consider legal tender to be public property. Mitigating circumstances would seem to be scale of change to the issue and ideological stand on the cause and first amendment.

Personally, I respect the desire of individuals to make their views known, but I'd rather not end up with the money in my pocket a mish-mash of competing ideologues.

This is entirely cute and amusing at the present scale, but I could see how it would very quickly get annoying if it became too widely prevalent.

Ultimately, my problem with this form of speech is that at the base level this is just more advertising. I see no real difference between this particular cause or if any other commercial or non-profit took to stamping bills or some other form of public space.
posted by rudyfink at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2002


There is no Church of The Holy United States. What is so hard to understand about that?

"one nation under God" was added at the behest of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. There was no doubt about which god it was a reference to.
posted by 4easypayments at 5:36 PM on September 8, 2002


grumblebee:
I couldn't agree more, A large percent of the people in New York are most likely Atheists ;)

skallas:
What you call the 'liberal interpretation' may be or is already the most popular definition of the clause.

You finally hit the nail on the head. I completely agree with you. That is the point I am striving at. When, "we" the people decide it is time to remove "In God We Trust" from the coinage, great. I can live with that, if that is what the majority of Americans feel comfortable with. But judging by the outrage from the recent "pledge ruling" I would gamble to say that the current "will of the people" runs a different vain then the 'liberal interpretation' that you and I talk about. When the time comes that the people of the United States have moved past the point that the motto no longer suites them, it will be changed.

4easypayments :
The Rev. Mark R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pa., who identified himself as simply a "minister of the Gospel," proposed a national motto in a Nov. 13, 1861

Though, personally I welcome our new Catholic Overlords.
Seriously though, that doesn't prove anything by the fact that a Catholic organization suggested it to Congress. There is still no state sanctioned church in the country.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2002


And the fact that the phrase is specific in using a singular pronoun, and capitalized, at the very least, is taken as a stand, by the government, for a mono-theistic religion.

Actually, each letter in the phrase--both on dollar bills and on coins--is capitalized. Furthermore, it is not printed in "small caps"--that is, the 'g' is the exact same size, no bigger, no smaller, than any other letter, and can easily be interpreted as lowercase.
posted by kjh at 6:57 PM on September 8, 2002


It always seemed to me that those of a Christian bent should be offended that something as godless as money contained pithy little sentiments about the Divine Creator. Admittedly, I am Biblically ignorant, but I recall several instances contained therein that would back up a claim such as this...one being "the love of money is the root of all evil" and the episode in the New Testament where Jesus tossed out the moneychangers on their asses for having the audacity to practice their business in the temple. Though not a Christian myself, it seemed always to me that "In God We Trust" printed on currency cheapened the religion and the statement as a whole.
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 7:04 PM on September 8, 2002


frykitty> I do not want to see advertisements stamped on my money, but I expect it to happen any day now.

Does this idea not nobble anyone else's brain? This is beautifully symmetrical, in a hideous, loathsome way...fantastic! Talk about signs of the coming apocalypse...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:08 PM on September 8, 2002


I agree, when that happens it's time for the Apocalypse.
posted by rhyax at 7:35 PM on September 8, 2002


You finally hit the nail on the head. I completely agree with you. That is the point I am striving at. When, "we" the people decide it is time to remove "In God We Trust" from the coinage, great. I can live with that, if that is what the majority of Americans feel comfortable with. But judging by the outrage from the recent "pledge ruling" I would gamble to say that the current "will of the people" runs a different vain then the 'liberal interpretation' that you and I talk about. When the time comes that the people of the United States have moved past the point that the motto no longer suites them, it will be changed.

*shrug* "the people" were also outraged by civil rights. That does not make segregation constitutional regardless of how many people like the idea.

But in regards to the pledge, the basic reason why the 'under god' revision was struck down is because the framers of that revision were quite honest it the congressional act about endorsing Christian monotheism as a response to "Communist" atheism (although leading American atheists objected to Communism as well.) So certianly while congress may blatantly flaunt the Constitution that does not mean they should get away with it.

But 'Under God' or even 'In God we Trust' is only acceptable within a specific religous framework and that makes it liturgy. Remember that most of the battles of the reformation had nothing to do with govenment funds for the church, but loyalty oaths (forbidden in the body of the constitution) and endorsement of specific religious language and texts (which was forbidden by the establishment clause.) Specifically the choice of venacular English rather than Latin or Greek is a specifically protestant bias, while if in fact the statement is general then why not have a series of coins with invocations of Shiva, Thor or Allah (in Arabic)?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:42 PM on September 8, 2002


Though, personally I welcome our new Catholic Overlords.

Hm. Usually I find those jokes funny.

that doesn't prove anything by the fact that a Catholic organization suggested it to Congress.

Yes it does. It's yet more proof that religious proselytizers can't be trusted for a minute. Whether they're knocking on my door at 10am on a Saturday or trying to shame me into praying at a public government function, they're still needy slimeballs who need to be (metaphorically) slapped down. Almost every time a reference to God has been pushed to the forefront of debate, there's been a staunchly religious group behind it; you've obviously read at least some of the history, so don't tell me those people aren't out to convert. I don't see how you can have any doubt that this kind of thing comes from a proselytizing impulse, which I suggest has more to do with the so-called believer's need for affirmation from other monkeys than anything else.

There is an interesting historical point, however, that many kneejerk opponents of the word "God" in public life conveniently forget: The original design for the U.S. seal proposed by a committe of Jefferson, Franklin and Adams in 1776 depicted the Jews crossing the Red Sea with the motto ""Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God" around the edge. Apparently, it appealed to the non-Christian revolutionary Deist in Jefferson, but was rejected by Congress.

There is still no state sanctioned church in the country.

There will be, if we let your argument take its natural course and stop fighting those who mask their need to convert others in pious patriotic bullshit.
posted by mediareport at 8:03 PM on September 8, 2002


so don't tell me those people aren't out to convert.
Not any more that the Atheists, that want to remove the phrase. They are looking to destroy god (or God) to bring people to their side.

There will be, if we let your argument take its natural course and stop fighting those who mask their need to convert others in pious patriotic bullshit.

No, never. If you belive the American Atheist's own number, then lack of faith is on the rise. The reason that the founding fathers didn't tackle this issue, is that at the time, Atheist was unthinkable, or if not that, extremely rare. So with that taken, then the religious powers that be are on a decline never before seen. And if they haven pushed for a national religion yet, how could then now with faith waining?

I guess the question I have for you is this:
Going by the American Atheist's numbers 86% of American belive in God.
Is it right for 14% to tell 86% what they can't do? Something that is not harming the 14%, something that is not infringing on that 14%'s rights? You tell me.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:17 PM on September 8, 2002


Whether they're knocking on my door at 10am on a Saturday or trying to shame me into praying at a public government function, they're still needy slimeballs who need to be (metaphorically) slapped down.

Yeah, its not like they believe in what they do or anything. It's not like they love bothering people for no good reason. Yeah, I get annoyed too when they come a knock'n, but I understand it's because they are trying to do what they think is best for me. Never mind if I think that they're flatout wrong, but I wouldn't toss around the word 'slimeballs' for them.

There will be, if we let your argument take its natural course and stop fighting those who mask their need to convert others in pious patriotic bullshit.

The Christians have already won. . .
What is this? I thought some of them are self-rightous, but that pretty much shows its not religion against non-religion, but personal world views vying.

I'm not saying that atheism isn't a perfectly legitimate form of religious preference, and of course those that chose that should be treated with the same courtesy as everyone else. Yet the goal isn't to create a atheist government, the goal is to make a government that call allow people of all religious preferences to live without ripping each other's throats out.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:36 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve:

"so don't tell me those people aren't out to convert.
Not any more that the Atheists, that want to remove the phrase. They are looking to destroy god (or God) to bring people to their side."

If they wanted "In no god we trust" printed on money, you'd have a point there. As it is, you don't.

"If you belive the American Atheist's own number, then lack of faith is on the rise."

Huh? I thought you didn't believe them. Or do you only believe them when it backs up your own argument?

"The reason that the founding fathers didn't tackle this issue, is that at the time, Atheist was unthinkable, or if not that, extremely rare."

I would love to see your evidence for that statement.

"Is it right for 14% to tell 86% what they can't do? Something that is not harming the 14%, something that is not infringing on that 14%'s rights?"

It may not be infringing on my rights. For all I know, it may be perfectly Constitutional; I'm not a legal scholar. That's not the reason I don't like it. I don't like it because it implies that it's unamerican to not trust in God, and as people are exposed to that message more and more, eventually they'll believe it. Many people already do, including former president Bush, who once said that atheists should not be considered as citizens. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a country where that's true.

P.S. Do you really think atheism is on the rise? Why?
posted by Silune at 9:47 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve, Steve, Steve....

Many Christians who believe in God would prefer not to have the phrase written on money because they feel it is sacreligious -- that money will be used to buy immoral things.

Muslims, who believe in God as well, would rather your motto say, "In Allah We Trust."

Jews, who believe in the same God, would rather your motto say, "In G-d We Trust."

Buddhists, would rather say, "In Buddha We Trust."

And Hindus, they believe in a number of gods....

How's your majority looking now, Steve_at_Linnwood?
posted by jennak at 9:48 PM on September 8, 2002


You know what? You are all right, And I am wrong.

Silune: You win the prize for the dumbest comment tonight:
Huh? I thought you didn't believe them. Or do you only believe them when it backs up your own argument?
I am not going to justify that.

How's your majority looking now, Steve_at_Linnwood?
Still looking pretty good. Thanks for bringing nothing to the table.

I was going to write something pithy back, but after along night of reading early British history, and posting, I am just too tired to think anymore. I have class in the morning.

Goodnight.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:13 PM on September 8, 2002


Steve: If you belive the American Atheist's own number

You make it sound like they took a telephone poll and quickly posted it to their page. Look at the source, your beef is with CUNY which did the ARIS study which was sponsered by the Posen Foundation, a jewish organization. Unless you can provide us with a good conspiracy theory or tackle their methodology then I'm taking these numbers on face value.

Do it bother you that much that there are an estimated 29 million people in the US who claim they have no religion to the point you must discredit the survey?

Steve: Is it right for 14% to tell 86% what they can't do? Something that is not harming the 14%, something that is not infringing on that 14%'s rights?

The numbers are meaningless when interpreting law. History of the civil rights movement is a good place to start to comprehend this. Numbers do affect politics, but we do not live in a 'pure democracy,' but in a republic of mixed goverment. The oligarchal element (congress) and the monarchial element (executive branch) are supposed to protect us from the tyranny of the majority.
posted by skallas at 10:22 PM on September 8, 2002


Yeah, its not like they believe in what they do or anything.

That's my point, Lord Chancellor: I don't think they do. After decades of dealing with fervent proselytizers, I'm absolutely convinced that what most drives the urgent need for new converts is the nagging suspicion that Cherished Doctrines really are as unbelievable as they sound. The more folks you convince to join the cult, see, the more clamor there is to drown out the still, smart voice of reason inside. It's the best theory I've seen, anyway.

Yeah, I get annoyed too when they come a knock'n, but I understand it's because they are trying to do what they think is best for me.

Knocking on a complete stranger's door with the intent of converting them to your religion is as disgustingly rude as nonviolent social behavior gets.

Never mind if I think that they're flatout wrong, but I wouldn't toss around the word 'slimeballs' for them.

You should have seen the mother and son combo that woke me up a few weeks ago. The kid couldn't have been more than 6 and looked extremely uncomfortable; I felt so sorry for him as I watched the mother present herself and start asking if I knew about the truth of Jesus Christ. That was a new twist; over the past few years it's usually been a black/white adult pair.

The only thing I could think to say in those first seconds was a polite but clearly annoyed "No thank you," hoping that the boy would get the message that I felt this behavior was wrong and his mother shouldn't be doing it. As she walked away and the kid caught my eye, all I could think was "Dude, I hope you get out from under the influence of this crap quick."

Proselytizing to strangers is inherently slimy. People who repeatedly engage in inherently slimy behavior are slimeballs. Seems fairly cut-and-dried to me.
posted by mediareport at 11:25 PM on September 8, 2002


In God We Trust

The statement implies that there is a single, merciful, interventionist deity. It was written by a Christian (a Christian minister, no less) in a country occupied mostly by Christians, and at a time when religious tolerance was not exactly at its highwater mark. It shares real estate on our currency with the language of the Catholic mass, and popular Judeo-Christian theological symbols of the Enlightenment. Do you think they put it on the dollar bill to make Buddhists happy?

It's ridiculous that people are so coy about admitting the obvious: nobody really believes that the God in "one nation under God," or 'in God we trust" are anything but the God of the KJV. The only people I've ever heard argue that the statement is non-denominational are Christians who, by some weird coincidence, happen to want the affirmation of God to be a part of their lives. Hmm...
posted by Hildago at 11:32 PM on September 8, 2002


Yeah, I'll belive atheists.org about the percentage of the population that is atheistic them as soon as I get my numbers from the Christian Coalition about the percentage of Americans that oppose abortion.

You might have a point. If atheists.org had conducted the survey.

Next time, read more closely.
posted by rushmc at 11:39 PM on September 8, 2002


There will be, if we let your argument take its natural course and stop fighting those who mask their need to convert others in pious patriotic bullshit.

Wow, mediareport, that must be the Monkey talking. I wish we could find a way to argue about the principle of this issue without resorting to badmouthing other people's beliefs. You obviously feel strongly about this mediareport (I'm certainly not a supporter of evangelicals and proselytizers either) and others in this thread, but it's time to let the religious trauma go, and outline your beliefs without denigrating others who have faith. Being a deist, I have no love for the fundamentalists of any ilk, and being a Libertarian, I have no time for the mixing of religious morality with public policy, but are those little words on the bills and coins really hurting you, or forcing you to adopt beliefs? I look at them as part of a tradition (much like the archaic style of engraving featured on our currency), a relic of our past that is worth remembering. If they go, they go. It won't ruin anyone's life, or pull anyone away from the "evils" of religion. If they stay, they won't convert anyone to Christianity, nor will they impede your right to disbelieve them. It seems like a minor, meaningless quibble compared to the real problems we're all facing. I'm waiting for people to start protesting the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" because it disparages "diversity" in favor of a globalistic concept of homogenous unity, although I think that phrase and "Novus Ordo Seclorum" are safe, since most people are just too lazy to take Latin anymore.

As she walked away and the kid caught my eye, all I could think was "Dude, I hope you get out from under the influence of this crap quick."

Strange, I think the same thing of you when I read some of your comments.
posted by evanizer at 12:27 AM on September 9, 2002


Steve_at_Linnwood's rhetorical strategy is a common one:

With the exception of the 2% of Americans that are Atheists, that covers everyone, not just Christians.

1) Point out that atheists are a minority and imply that we therefore don't merit consideration. (FYI: Even if we were only 0.01% of the population, we still wouldn't appreciate the implication that we're not part of the American "we".)

niteHawk, you are right, I really do need a small group of my "betters" telling me what to do. [sarcasm]

2) Twist the issue around and imply that we are oppressing religious people if we ask that they not be allowed to force their religion upon the rest of us. (FYI: This isn't about us telling you what to do; it's about preventing YOU from telling US what to do, what we should believe, and so on.)
posted by boredomjockey at 12:29 AM on September 9, 2002


[evanizer:] I have no time for the mixing of religious morality with public policy, but are those little words on the bills and coins really hurting you, or forcing you to adopt beliefs? I look at them as part of a tradition (much like the archaic style of engraving featured on our currency), a relic of our past that is worth remembering. If they go, they go. It won't ruin anyone's life, or pull anyone away from the "evils" of religion. If they stay, they won't convert anyone to Christianity, nor will they impede your right to disbelieve them. It seems like a minor, meaningless quibble compared to the real problems we're all facing.

If the presence of religious slogans on our money and in our pledge are meaningless and unimportant, then why do we hear such a deafening outcry of protest at any effort to have them removed? Apparently they mean quite a bit to the people whose beliefs they represent.

Also: If these slogans are of such little importance, then why not just get rid of them? (And sorry, but I find the appeal to tradition unconvincing. We've gotten rid of a lot of nasty practices in this country that were once defended as traditions.)

You can't have it both ways: Either these slogans are deeply meaningful statements that exclude part of the population from an official declaration of what it means to be a citizen, OR they're unimportant bits of fluff and their presence doesn't really matter.
posted by boredomjockey at 12:57 AM on September 9, 2002


i sorely wish you guys didn't have to come to loggerheads over this kind of thing; it's not even my problem and i've got a small tension headache from reading this thread 8-) i think money should be as propaganda free as possible, outside of the craggy faces of former leaders, with some friendly artwork on the backside. then you could divert all this passion and brain power to... oh i dunno. i'm gonna go play monopoly with the contents of my wallet.
posted by t r a c y at 1:21 AM on September 9, 2002


Is it right for 14% to tell 86% what they can't do? Something that is not harming the 14%, something that is not infringing on that 14%'s rights? You tell me.

The issue is not what the 86 percent wishes to do, but what the government is permitted to do. For one thing, those who advocate separation of church and state are not telling the 86 percent to do anything or not to do anything. One can say the pledge with the "under God" revision, one can say a prayer every time one chooses to exchange money, one can pray in school. However what the government cannot do is make these things an official part of its policy. (The first violates the no religious oaths clause of the Constitution, the latter two violates First Amendment restrictions regarding establishment and free practice.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:33 AM on September 9, 2002


something similar came up in JSG boggs v. robert e. rubin :)

JSG boggs is a "money artist" who makes his own currency. he doesn't claim or try to pass off his "money" as real, hence they cannot be considered counterfeit, but he will try to pay for stuff with his bills, even with the counterparty knowing that it's just "art."

also what ceirog sed!
posted by kliuless at 6:19 AM on September 9, 2002


After reading about this last night, I decided to do a little experiment. Here are my conclusions: First, a felt tip marker works just fine for getting god off your money. After writing "freedom" on one bill, and "f" on a second, I decided that ball point pens don't work very well on money. So I decided to let the people decide what they believe in.

This morning I went to the store to buy breakfast (2 donuts and a Rolling Rock) and the store clerk took my money. He didn't say "Hey! this twenty has no god on it," he just took it and gave me my change.

In conclusion, I think that if just 10 per cent of atheists, agnostics, and other non monotheistic people would cover up the god on their money, then before you know it, we'd have money as our founding fathers intended.
posted by faceonmars at 7:59 AM on September 9, 2002


Just the fact that our country is run by ultra conservative jesus freaks should make everyone wary of any "god" talk comeing out of washington(or on our money)!!
posted by hoopyfrood at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2002


The government shouldn't be writing slogans on money in the first place.

THEY started this whole mess, and I for one will not stop crossing out the word "God" until they stop printing it.
posted by Jack Masters at 8:26 AM on September 9, 2002


I think "In God We Trust" printed on our money is not constitutional, and a bit of a lie as well. It doesn't seem that most people in this country really trust in God, even though they profess to believe in him/her. I look at that printed on my money and snort derisively. Why not be realistic and print "In Cash We Trust"?
posted by littlegirlblue at 8:43 AM on September 9, 2002


Jews, who believe in the same God, would rather your motto say, "In G-d We Trust."

Cute list...but no, we wouldn't. Writing out or speaking the Tetragrammaton in full is forbidden; writing out or speaking "God" isn't. "God" isn't God's name, so there's no problem (as rabbis occasionally try to point out).
posted by thomas j wise at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2002


So why not just change it to:
"In some sort of Universal Absolute We Trust"
You can decide to translate that to God, No God, Science, or whatever.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2002


There should be nothing wrong with defacing a dollar bill. The argument was made earlier that someone might write something terribly offensive on the bill and make you reconsider spending it. Really, that's a non-issue.

Imagined you loved Zod.

You get a dollar with "Zod is a jerk" written on it. This infuriates you. Don't people realize all the good that Zod has done for us. Sure we have to kneel before him from time to time, but he makes sure the trains run on time, and he can blow giant winds from his mouth.

So, instead of tearing up and throwing away the dollar, you casually redact the statement with a black marker and whistle past a graveyard content in the knowledge that you did Zod's will.
posted by drezdn at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2002


Well I was gonna make some counterpoints to all of this when I thought. . .

Wasn't this thread originally debating the legitimacy of defacing money?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2002


The debate over legitimacy ended in my mind as soon as frykitty posted that link to the treasury department. Now we're just indulging ourselves.
posted by Hildago at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2002


Just the fact that our country is run by ultra conservative jesus freaks should make everyone wary of any "god" talk comeing out of washington(or on our money)!!
hoopyfrood did you just sign up last night to troll?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:38 AM on September 9, 2002


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