The founding Fathers of the United States of America were quite clear about freedom being an important facet of American life. They went to great lengths to ensure its citizens as much autonomy as possible, the freedom of religion included. Those who originally came to this country were seeking the right to practice freely and wished the same for everyone else.
In 1776, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the first US motto was coined “E Pluribus Unum” which translates to “From the many, one.” (Foster) It was intended to represent the union between the states and federal government but happened to be a fine representation of the plurality intended for Americans, as well. In the 1950’s, during the Cold War, the motto was switched to “In God We Trust” to show opposition to secular communism, aka “The Red Scare”. Other edits to American traditions were made in this time as well, like The Pledge of Allegiance coming to include “under God”). (Foster) The Cold War has been over for decades, yet still… “In God We Trust” remains as the national motto in a country that fosters and encourages diversity among its people.
Original 1776 E Pluribus Unum Seal designed by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere
I feel that it is important to reinstate “E Pluribus Unum” as the national US motto. Even though “In God We Trust” is a more recent addition, it is far more outdated and archaic than the original motto, which better represents every American and their freedom to practice how they will, as our forefathers intended. “In God We Trust” is a rather limited and theocratic motto that caters to one demographic of American while violating the Constitution and has outlived its reasoning for putting it into place. “E Pluribus Unum” covers every citizen and symbolizes the unity in democracy- in being able to live among others who are also free to their own beliefs and liberty.
“In God We Trust” insinuates theocracy in endorsing religion, which is not American. The Establishment Clause of the first amendment of The Constitution proclaims, “The State shall not show preference to any one religion over the other,” to prevent such a divisive statement from being made. (Madison) “In God We Trust” does exactly that by limiting or misrepresenting one’s higher power or by even implying that one has to show trust or faith in a God at all. “E Pluribus Unum” has room for everyone, those who believe in God or do not and all variants in between as well as being in line with The Constitution, what was written to ensure freedom for all, not preference for one religion shown over the other like “In God We Trust” blatantly does.
Why is “In God We Trust” even allowed to remain the US motto? Though Christianity and other Abrahamic monotheistic faiths are the most numerous in this country, those who identify as other religions, or none at all, are on the rise and have been for some time. (Pew Research Center) Even still, America has no obligation to bolster up one religion over the other in the public square and actually decries it, as clearly stated in The Establishment Clause of The Constitution. (Madison) It is shameful that this breach of church and state is allowed to continue and so blatantly.
Symbolism is extremely important as it influences the views of others in a subconscious way. Having “In God We Trust” as the motto is inaccurate in representing the citizens of America. It almost seems to be a part of encroaching theocracy, in place since the fear of communism in the 1950’s brought about all this religious verbiage in government induced aspects. (Foster) Even though more and more Americans are coming away from organized religion, (Pew Research Center) it seems that the grip is being tightened in laws attempting to be passed across the country, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act- which allows businesses to turn down customers/clients due to religious belief. (Freedom From Religion Foundation) Also, anytime Christianity sneaks or bullies itself into the government forum, it seems they don’t like it when others do the same, as evidenced by outrage from public officials and citizens alike, whenever another religious group tries to claim the same privileges granted to Christians, in leading prayers at town halls or displays on public property. (Holley) This is exactly the type of bickering our founding Fathers hoped to avoid.
Why would we choose a theocratic motto in a country that values religious freedom? The current US motto, The Pledge of Allegiance and the fact that “In God We Trust” is printed on our currency, is constantly used as an argument against any type of secularism proclaiming that, “America is a Christian nation,” and therefore has a right to dominate the discourse. (Knight) Those who say that are usually oblivious to the fact that the addition of “God” in all of these American facets was added centuries after our nation was founded and wasn’t intended by our forefathers. (Foster) Since the beginning, America sought to be a country free from governmental influence in nearly every area of life, as dictated by those who wrote the Constitution to guarantee such freedoms. (Madison) The original motto represents that freedom a lot better and even that of those who are in preference of the 1950’s edit. Why fix what is not broken?
Americans should not continue to settle for an archaic motto born in fear during a war that is no longer being fought, when the original declared motto of “E Pluribus Unum” was perfect to begin with and represents everyone instead of a select few. We are not a theocratic country but a diverse nation founded on freedom and made up of various religious backgrounds as a result, or lack thereof.
Our forefathers would encourage us to be accepting of our neighbors, as we would like them to be of us. The original motto is best representative of the plurality America embodies and in line with The Constitution more than the one that hijacked it.
It is time to fly “E Pluribus Unum” once again and truly become the “one from the many” instead of dividing people further because of differences that ensue when the line between church and state is crossed.
Knight, Robert. “”America IS a Christian Nation” Church and State.” Opposing Viewpoints in Contrast (2012). Report from “U.S. Was Born a Christian Nation.” CNN, 2010. 11 September 2016.
Madison, James. “U.S. Constitution, Amendment I.” Government, Politics, and Protest: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K Lee Lerner, Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 11 September 2016.
(This is an A graded persuasive essay, properly cited in MLA format, that I composed for my English 2 Final. Southern New Hampshire University, October 2016)