Mayle v. The Congress of the United States of America et al
ORDER Signed by the Honorable Amy J. St. Eve on 9/29/2017: The Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety. 15 . All pending dates and deadlines are stricken. Civil case terminated. [For further details, see Order.] Mailed notice(kef, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al.,
Case No. 17 C 3417
Judge Amy St. Eve
The Court grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice and dismisses this lawsuit
in its entirety. . All pending dates and deadlines are stricken. Civil case terminated.
On May 5, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Kenneth Mayle filed a Complaint against Defendants
United States of America, the United States Secretary of the Treasury, and other federal
government officials for violating the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1.1 Also, pro se Plaintiff paid the $400
filing fee on May 5, 2017. Before the Court is Defendants’ motion to dismiss brought pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants
Defendants’ motion with prejudice and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.
“A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the
viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). Under
Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the federal pleading standards, a
plaintiff’s “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007).
Put differently, a “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct.
1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When determining
the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all wellpleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs’ favor.” Roberts v. City of
Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).
On July 7, 2017, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Defendant Congress of the United
States of America pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii).
Construing his pro se allegations liberally, see Parker v. Four Seasons Hotels, Ltd., 845
F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 2017), Plaintiff challenges the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on
the nation’s currency.2 Plaintiff alleges that he is a non-theistic Satanist and that Satanism rejects
the existence of supernatural deities and celebrates, rather than rejects, the material and carnal
universe. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that “In God We Trust” is a direct endorsement of a
supernatural deity that advocates for the destruction of people who reject the existence of deities.
He further states that the nation’s money forces him to carry forth a government message
proclaiming the existence of “God” and professing “trust’ in that God. In particular, he alleges
that by using American currency, he is compelled to proselytize for an official government
ideology that professes faith in one “God.”
In Count I of his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that “In God We Trust” on the nation’s
coins and currency violates RFRA. In Count II, he asserts that “In God We Trust” on the
nation’s coins and currency violates Congress’ “enumerated power” limitation. Plaintiff further
alleges an Equal Protection Clause claim in Count III and a First Amendment Free Speech
Clause claim in Count IV. In Count V, Plaintiff contends that the use of the nation’s motto “In
God We Trust” on currency violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
RFRA and First Amendment Free Exercise Clause Claims – Counts I and V
Under RFRA, the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of
religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” unless the government
can show the rule is in furtherance of a “compelling governmental interest” and is the “least
restrictive means” of furthering that governmental interest. See Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores,
Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2751, 2761 (2014); 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1. The Free Exercise Clause states that
“Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. U.S. Const. amend. 1,
cl. 1. “The First Amendment, via its Free Exercise Clause, guarantees that government will not
impinge on the freedom of individuals to celebrate their faiths, in the day-to-day, or in life’s
grand moments.” Doe ex rel. Doe v. Elmbrook Sch. Dist., 687 F.3d 840, 856 (7th Cir. 2012).
Pro se Plaintiff is not the first individual who has challenged “In God We Trust” on the
nation’s coins and currency. In fact, it is well-settled that the nation’s motto “In God We Trust”
on currency does not violate the Free Exercise Clause or RFRA. See Newdow v. Peterson, 753
F.3d 105, 109 (2d Cir. 2014) (“the carrying of currency, which is fungible and not publicly
displayed, does not implicate concerns that its bearer will be forced to proclaim a viewpoint
contrary to his own”); Newdow v. Lefevre, 598 F.3d 638, 645-46 (9th Cir. 2010) (“national motto
is of a ‘patriotic or ceremonial character,’ has no ‘theological or ritualistic impact,’ and does not
constitute ‘governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise’”) (citation omitted); see also New
“In God We Trust” is the national motto. See 36 U.S.C. § 302.
Doe Child # 1 v. Cong. of the United States of Am., No. 5:16CV59, 2016 WL 6995358, at *2
(N.D. Ohio Nov. 30, 2016) (“Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the use of the motto on currency
substantially burdens their religious exercise.”); Newdow v. United States, No. 13 CV 741 HB,
2013 WL 4804165, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (“[T]here is no showing of government coercion,
penalty, or denial of benefits linked to the use of currency or the endorsement of the motto.”);
Newdow v. Cong. of U.S. of Am., 435 F. Supp. 2d 1066, 1077 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (“Because the
national motto has been held to be secular in nature, there is no proper allegation that the
government compelled plaintiff to affirm a repugnant belief in monotheism”).
Accordingly, because pro se Plaintiff cannot state a plausible claim under RFRA and the
Free Exercise Clause, the Court grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss Counts I and V. See Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678 (complaint is plausible on its face when plaintiff alleges “factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
Enumerated Power Claim – Count II
Next, in Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Congress lacks the constitutional power to make
religious claims such as printing “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency. See 31 U.S.C. §§
5112(d)(1), 5114(b). Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, in Article I, Section 8, the United States
Constitution specifies that Congress, within its enumerated powers, has the power to “coin
money,” “regulate [its] value,” and to “provide for the punishment of counterfeiting.” U.S.
Const. Article I, Section 8. Congress also has the power to pass any laws “necessary and proper”
to achieve those ends that are specifically enumerated. See U.S. Const. Article I, Section 8, cl.
Moreover, the Court cannot grant the relief Plaintiff seeks against Congress because the
parties have voluntarily dismissed Congress from this lawsuit. In addition, in his response and
sur-reply briefs, Plaintiff makes no mention of his enumerated power claim, and thus has
abandoned it. See Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1020-21 (7th Cir. 2007) (absence of discussion
in briefs amounts to abandonment of claim). The Court therefore grants Defendants’ motion to
dismiss Count II.
Equal Protection Claim – Count III
In Count III of his Complaint, pro se Plaintiff alleges an Equal Protection Clause claim
stating that by “placing ‘In God We Trust’ on the money, Defendants are clearly disrespecting
Plaintiff’s religious views, while supporting the majority’s monotheistic religious beliefs.” The
Equal Protection Clause prohibits a state from denying to “any person within its jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. Am. XIV, § 1. The Equal Protection Clause “is
essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Whitaker v.
Kenosha Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 Bd. of Educ., 858 F.3d 1034, 1050 (7th Cir. 2017) (citation
Pro se Plaintiff’s Equal Protection Clause Claim necessarily fails because the statutes
allowing for the engraving and printing of currency affect all citizens equally – regardless of
their religious beliefs. See Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 429 (7th Cir. 1997) (“An equal
protection violation occurs only when different legal standards are arbitrarily applied to similarly
situated individuals”); see, e.g., New Doe Child # 1, 2016 WL 6995358, at *4. The Court thus
grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss Count III.
First Amendment Free Speech Claim – Count IV
Last, pro se Plaintiff alleges a First Amendment Free Speech Clause Claim, namely, that
by inscribing the terms “In God We Trust” on the nation’s coins and currency bills – with the
specific intention of having individuals proselytize that religious message – Defendants have
violated his free speech rights. In general, “leading First Amendment precedents have
established the principle that freedom of speech prohibits the government from telling people
what they must say.” Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic & Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47,
In the context of compelled speech, the Supreme Court, in dicta, rejected Plaintiff’s
argument approximately forty years ago. See Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705, 717 n. 15
(1977). To clarify, in Wooley, the Supreme Court “held that New Hampshire’s compulsory
‘Live Free or Die’ license plates violated the First Amendment rights of plaintiffs, who were
Jehovah’s Witnesses, but noted that it did not view the ruling as one that would apply to the
country’s currency: ‘currency, which is passed from hand to hand, differs in significant respects
from an automobile, which is readily associated with its operator. Currency is generally carried
in a purse or pocket and need not be displayed to the public. The bearer of currency is thus not
required to publicly advertise the national motto.’” Newdow, 753 F.3d at 109 (quoting Wooley,
430 U.S. at 717 n.15). Based on Wooley, federal courts have rejected free speech challenges to
“In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency. See New Doe Child # 1, 2016 WL 6995358, at *3
(“Printing the motto on currency is distinguishable from forcing an individual to salute the flag
or display a license plate…. No reasonable viewer would think a person handling money does so
to spread its religious message.”). As such, the Court grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss
Dated: September 29, 2017
AMY J. ST. EVE
United States District Court Judge
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