First, Eid mubarak to all. I think it ended at Maghrib today, but whatever. Woohoo, stay up late, sleep past first light, eat during the day– you might even consider having what my local imam calls “the sexual enjoy.”

Second, on this day in 1957 the phrase “In God We Trust” first appeared on US paper currency. If you want to more than I know about this, here‘s a little fact sheet from the Treasury. (Like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” is one of those things that hasn’t been around that long, but kind of seems like it has been, even though a lot of village-atheist types will loudly remind you that it hasn’t.)

What’s halfway interesting is why putting the phrase on money might not be a violation of the Establishment clause: according to the “ceremonial deism” line the phrase has “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content” as Justice Brennan put it. So it’s permissible because it merely appears to endorse, but does not actually endorse, a religious viewpoint; the phrase doesn’t have “significant religious content” because it has been reduced to empty ritual, like saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.

Two thoughts on this that aren’t very original. First, this line is much more plausible about money than about the Pledge of Allegiance. Second, its plausibility declines as controversy over the issue rises. That is, the existence of hot feelings over the phrase, in both directions, suggests that it’s not mere ceremony– see for example here and the outcry over the Newdow case. If the relevant phrases were devoid of religious content, this excitement wouldn’t make any sense. (Obviously I’m no lawyer, but this one seems pretty clear to me: look, there’s the state, endorsing a religious viewpoint. But the pledge! and money! How dare they tamper with our folkways! So the CD hedge keeps things as they were, in a way that would be even more grossly unsatisfying if this were a more important issue.)

Also, how awesome is it that Sarah Palin thinks that the Constitution contains a right to privacy?