Brazil to Remove "God" Reference From Money

Brazil is taking the idea of the separation of church from state to level that secularists in the United States can only dream of. Prosecutors from São Paulo have succeeded in wiping the phrase Deus Seja Louvado (God Be Praised) from the Brazilian reais, their form of currency. Jefferson Dias first brought the proposal forward last November. Regional prosecutor for civil rights Jefferson Dias said the move will protect the religious liberty of all citizens. Of course, opposition from members of the faithful alike resulted. Is Brazil being nit-picky? Or is there validity to their secular argument?

Should America follow the same route?

Perhaps. Removing "In God We Trust" from the dollar wouldn't lessen its value or take away from America’s inherently religious population. If anything, it would be an acute, thoughtful gesture.

From our Pledge of Allegiance (“one nation under God”), to our oaths (swearing on the Bible) and money (“In God we Trust”), some form of “God” permeates the public realm. And that God is almost always a reference to the Judeo-Christian one. Case in point: Dias once said, “Let’s imagine if the real (Brazilian currency) note had any of these phrases on it: ‘Praise Allah,’ ‘Praise Buddha,’ ‘Hail Oxossi,’ ‘Hail Lord Ganesh’ or ‘God does not exist.’” Imagine the outrage indeed if any of the aforementioned appeared on an American bill. Why is the Judeo-Christian context allowed to continue on as the “safest option,” so to speak?

Wouldn't it be more “American” to maintain neutrality in that sense by removing such preambles? The dollar would be one place to aim for, and a minor one at that. How often do we think really about what’s written on our twenties and fifties unless the topic’s raised otherwise?

America operates under the idea of a separated church and state, a concept also known as secularism. San Diego State University scholar Ahmet T. Kuru specifies that the United States practices a form of what he calls passive secularism. Kuru's definition of it "requires that the secular state play a ‘passive’ role in avoiding the establishment of any religions, allows for the public visibility of religion.” In comparison, he said that France and Turkey are examples of aggressive secularism — a philosophy that aims to completely remove religion from the public eye. One example of this "aggressiveness" can be seen with the way Islam is treated in those countries. Muslim women aren't allowed to wear hijabs or other veiled forms of Islamic dress in state institutions — state ran schools, for example. In the United States, such a strict policy wouldn't see the light of day. 

At bottom the question is, is it worth it? To one in man Brazil, the answer is yes, and now Brazil plans on printing new money without the religious wording. The same measure could pass in the U.S., but not without sparking a huge, controversial national debate. To some policymaker in the future, the Brazilian precedent may be worth it in the future.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Zainab Akande

Born and raised in New York City, Zainab is a University of Delaware alum, currently working on obtaining her M.A. in journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York. http://zainabakande.com/

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