On November 10, President Obama addressed a crowd at the University of Indonesia about a “shared humanity” in the face the deep tension between the U.S. and Muslim communities. “In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can sometimes be lost,” he said. “But I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia should give us hope. It is a story written into our national mottos. In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity…our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag.”
More than shared humanity or diversity, the big takeaway from this speech for the Congressional Prayer Caucus was Obama’s choice of motto. Yesterday, in a letter obtained by Minnesota Independent, 41 Republicans — including Reps. Michele Bachmann (MN) and Mike Pence (IN) — and lone Democrat Mike McIntyre (NC) took to their bully pulpit to lambast Obama for forsaking the official U.S. motto “In God We Trust” in favor of E pluribus unum. Finding a “pattern” of subversive omittances among Obama’s speeches, the outraged lawmakers slammed Obama’s “disservice to the people you represent” and demanded Obama “issue a correction” to his speech:
E pluribus unum is not our national motto.[...]
As President of the United States, you are our representative to the rest of the world. By misrepresenting things as foundational as the Declaration of Independence and our national motto, you are not only doing a disservice to the people you represent you are casting aside an integral part of American society.
John Adams said, “It is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.” If Adams was right, by making these kinds of statements to the rest of the world, you are removing one of the cornerstones of our secure freedom. If we pull the threat of religious conviction out of the marketplace of ideas, we unravel the tapestry of freedom that birthed America.[...]
We respectively request that you issue a correction to the speech you gave, as it does not accurately reflect America and serve to undercut an important part of our history. We are willing to meet with you to discuss this further if you would like. As President Ronald Reagan warned, “if we ever forgot that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
To bolster their own view, these lawmakers blatantly ignore Obama’s repeated references to God in his speeches. In fact, they pointedly ignore his multiple references to God in the very same Indonesia speech in which Obama shows no sign of trying to avoid the subject.
In blasting his choice of U.S. motto, these lawmakers also insinuate that the motto E pluribus unum “does not accurately reflect America.” But while “In God We Trust” has been the nation’s official motto since 1956, E pluribus unum, or “out of many, one,” is the motto on the Seal of the United States and was the nation’s original “de facto motto” until 1956. Ironically, John Adams — a founding father who signed his name to the idea that the U.S. “is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” — suggested E pluribus unum as the young nation’s motto in 1776.
In fact, only when “the nation was suffering through the height of the cold war, and the McCarthy communist witch hunt” did Congress, desiring to differentiate between communism and Western capitalistic democracies, replace that motto with “In God we Trust.” And while some among the Congressional Prayer Caucus have no problem with Senator Joe McCarthy’s methods, most try to avoid the comparison.
View full letter here: