As regards the altering of US currency, (In my case, blacking out the “In God We Trust” motto), and whether or not it is illegal, I found the following on the Hemp News website, dated 1995:
WOODSTOCK, New York — A couple who habitually brand their one dollar bills with a marijuana leaf and the quote: “I grew hemp,” were recently contacted by Woodstock police acting on behalf of the Secret Service. Joy Beckerman and James Horn, owners of the Heaven On Earth Hemp Store, report that the police came to them with Xerox copies of stamped dollar bills and a written warning from the secret service specifying that the practice of defacing United States currency was a federal crime. Although Horn admits that the local officers were laid back about the whole issue, he claims that the notice stated that the U.S. Attorney General would be contacted and charges would be pressed if the couple didn’t immediately stop the stamping.
While Horn fully admits to stamping many of his dollar bills with the pro-hemp message, he is alarmed that the federal government seems to be targeting him alone. Since Heaven On Earth sells the “I grew hemp” stampers, the couple argues that the government has no way of proving that the bills in question were defaced by them.
Horn says that he will continue to both sell stampers and stamp some of his one dollar bills despite the warning. The couple see their action as a way of informing the community of hemp’s industrial uses and its historical background as an integral American crop.
For more information, please contact either Joy Beckerman or James Horn of Heaven On Earth @ (914) 679-4990.
If any of your other readers are aware of similar incidents, I would like to know about them. I just ordered an “Atheist Money’ stamp from United States Atheists. I wonder how long before Big Brother comes for me!
From: “Positive Atheism” <email@example.com> To: “Bobbi Needham”
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Friday, July 14, 2000 5:30 AM
I’d like to see the law.
Even if there is a law, I’d like to see it pitted against an atheist’s First Amendment right to speak out against government irresponsibility and against what many Americans see as an illegal act (promoting religion).
This sounds fishy, considering that the Secret Service is deputized to protect the First Family. I didn’t know their authority extended beyond that.
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
From: “Bobbi Needham”
To: “Positive Atheism” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Defacing US currency, “In God We Trust”
Date: Sunday, July 16, 2000 8:37 AM
Hi again Cliff,
I just found this on one of the web pages of the Bureau of Engraving and printing.
Defacement of currency is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Under this provision, currency defacement is generally defined as follows: Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
Defacement of currency in such a way that it is made unfit for circulation comes under the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service. Their address is: United States Secret Service, 1800 G Street, N. W., Washington, DC 20223.
You can find the page at:
What’s of particular interest to me are the words “with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued”. Am I wrong in assuming that the government would then need to prove intent to render the bill unfit to be reissued in order to successfully prosecute for defacement of currency?
My intent is to remove (or blot out) the offensive phrase “In God We Trust” from the currency I earn and spend, with the hopes that as many persons as possible see the change and know that there are those who are offended by and oppose this phrase appearing on our currency.
It is not my intent to see the altered bills destroyed and replaced with crisp new bills that bear the same repugnant phrase.
The hundred dollar fine I could handle, but 6 months in jail would be tough. Still, if I don’t have the courage of my convictions, what do I have?