It is Independence Day where I am, and I reflect on the original motto of the United States. It holds a bit of hope, where the idea that we are all one people and yet we are many. Acknowledging our differences and similarities all in one phrase.
So why do our seals and currency no longer say that phrase? Because in 1952 due to the fear of Communism, Congress changed our nation’s motto from “E. Pluribus Unum” to “In Got We Trust.” It’s also important to know that the Pledge of Allegiance was originally written around 1852 by a Baptist minister and didn’t include “under God.” That also was added in the 1950s.
This change is not a good change, and ever since then a large segment of people have been obsessed with the idea that America was founded on Christian principles. This myth is simply a myth as America was not founded on Christianity. The original Bill of Rights and the Constitution only mentions religion in the statements that declare the Freedom of religion. And in the Treaty of Tripoli, Congress specifically wrote: “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” So our founding “fathers” made it clear that no, the US was not founded on any one religion.
This myth frustrates me because it privileges Christianity over all over religions in the US, and I truly believe that hurts us as a nation. We are a nation of many faiths and that gives us part of our strength — this diversity. Our Constitution made it clear that all religions can be freely exercised and all should be respected. Privileging one over all others is exactly what the founding fathers didn’t want to happen. Part of their revolt was due to religious persecution in that time period (as well as economic reasons). The Constitution also bans the use of “religious tests” in Article VI. This is a bit ironic because our current politics makes it incredibly hard for anyone that isn’t a Christian to run for office. The “religious tests” may not be done by the government itself, but when the media attacks presidents and congress people for not paying lip service to the Christian God and cause a major public fallout, then I’d say our society does a “religious test” unofficially. This really needs to stop. It doesn’t matter what religion you are — we are all equal, and no one religion should be enshrined in our laws. We are not a theocracy but a democracy. On this day that celebrates our independence, we should remember our roots — we were founded on the hope for equality and freedom.
I think we should let go of that troublesome phrase “under god” and “in god we trust” as it really doesn’t represent the plurality and beautiful diversity that is America. Let us go back to our original motto of E. Pluribus Unum — “Out of Many, One” — and remember that all of us are created equal. All of us deserve the same human rights and should be treated with respect and dignity. That we should be free to live our lives in pursuit of happiness (as Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence). Oppression of any sort should be fought as it restricts our freedoms and human rights. The fight against oppression is still ongoing for many marginalized groups — especially people of color, those in poverty, and trans folks, and although we have come a long way as a nation, we still have a long way to go.
Let freedom ring for everyone and not just a privileged few.