How is it that the federal government can establish "In God We Trust" as our national motto, print IGWT on our currency and engrave it on our coins, have a Pledge of Allegiance with "one nation under God", military bands play God Bless America, etc.
The answer is quite simple: tyranny of the majority. While the First Amendment prohibits government sponsorship of religion (i.e. establishments of religion), presidents, congressmen and women and judges and justices lack the courage to enforce it or, worse, are part of the problem.
In the last two weeks, we have two federal court cases with astonishing different results. First, on October 6, courageous U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb held that the "parsonage allowance" found in I.R.C. Sec. 107(2) violated the Establishment Clause. The parsonage allowance provision allows "ministers of the gospel" (broadly construed by IRS) to exempt from their income taxes allowances for their housing -- including for mansions, swimming pools and lawn care -- while disallowing the exemption for similarly situated secular persons. Excellent decision in Gaylor v. Mnuchin (W.D. Wisc. Oct. 6, 2017) based on fidelity to the Constitution.
On the other hand, U.S. District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve obediently whimped out in Mayle v. U.S. (N.D. Ill., Sept. 29, 2017) by regurgitating the sham legal reason of "ceremonial deism" (which states that it's OK for the government to promote the majority religion (i.e., Christianity) by using short phrases such as "In God We Trust," "under God" and "So help me God").
While I find every aspect of the Judge St. Eve's opinion repugnant and contrary to the Constitution, I would like to focus on two points.
First, Judge St. Eve found that compelling Americans to conduct financial transactions with U.S. currency and coins with "In God We Trust" is not a "substantial burden" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This is absurd on its face. Because I am an Atheist, I use a black permanent marker to line thru "In God We Trust" on the currency I carry in my wallet. (Too difficult to grind IGWT of coins but I like the idea.) Well, Judge St. Eve, it is at least as much a "substantial burden" as having Christian institutions signing a form saying they don't want to provide contraceptive coverage under the ACA. Actually more so.
Second, Judge St. Eve doesn't understand the Equal Protection argument. In her view, since everyone has to carry the unconstitutional currency, they they are "equal." That's the wrong comparison. Rather, the issue is that Congress has shown preference to the majority's religion by mandating a statement of belief in the monotheistic "God" be placed on our coins and currency. The inequality relates to the Congress's lack of similar endorsements of Atheism and minority religions. An absolutely blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
The Supreme Court has said in numerous cases that government must remain neutral in matters of religion -- that government may not prefer one religion over another, or religion over nonbelief. (See, e.g., McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005).
Until the Supreme Court rids itself of its morning prayer of "God save this honorable Court" and declares ceremonial deism a sham, Atheists and practitioners of minority religions will continue to be second class citizens in the United States.