First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 5, No. 1, August 2004
The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United
E Pluribus Unum -- Worth the Effort to Protect and Advocate
By Jim Huff
At the birth of the Constitutional United States of America, the brief, simple and inclusive description of the new nation was inscribed on the Great Seal of this infant nation. Proposed in 1776 and adopted in 1782, E Pluribus Unum: Latin for “Out of many…one” championed the key principle in the new nation. Equality under the law for all citizens. E Pluribus Unum was a “unifying” principle.
Differences in public opinions, nationalities, religious traditions, and political concerns were envisioned as part of the new national society. It was a true and noble national objective. Persons with differing religious or secular convictions were to be respected and treated with fair play and justice under the law.
The drafters of the great seal could have selected a generic religious theme or motto. They could have proposed a motto with a Christian theme, but they did not. They opted for a secular, patriotic, religion-less emphasis. The religious conflicts in Europe, the religious tragedies of world history, and the harshness of the early Massachusetts colony toward differing faiths all supported the wisdom of keeping religious dogma out of the review and approval of the national government.
The Fourteenth Amendment of 1867 brought the limitations of the federal government down to state governments also.
The Second National Motto was adopted in 1956: In God We Trust. It was a product of the Cold War period of United States History. It was neither a unifying statement nor a truthful national statement. It was a legislative body using its political strength to state a “religious” concept for the nation at a time of crisis. Passing a law does not translate into the attitudes and views of the citizens living under that law. It is a slogan without any depth. It misrepresents the religious complexities of the United States.
The Oklahoma Chapter has developed a poster to highlight “E Pluribus Unum”. Along with the poster a brief written description of the phrase is included. The political and cultural value of the motto is worth posting and advocating in a classroom or an office. The secular aspects of the Original Motto are intentionally being overshadowed by the second motto.
The Oklahoma State Legislature recently passed a law permitting the posting of both the E Pluribus Unum motto and the In God We Trust motto in public school classrooms. Encourage the teachers at your school to get one of our E Pluribus Unum posters.
Contact our office if you would like your own copy of the Original National Motto poster.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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