The Founding Fathers Had a National Motto: E Pluribus Unum

Rep. Randy Forbes is on a mission to pass a resolution affirming that the national motto “In God We Trust” and House Republicans are playing right along, so it is no surprise that Religious Right activists like the Family Research Council’s Ken Klukowski are stepping up to make their contribution to this important effort as well:

Odds are good the Founding Fathers would be astounded by the religious controversies of this past week.

First, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-VA, introduced a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as our national motto. He did so in part after President Obama wrongly claimed the national motto is “E Pluribus Unum.”

Forbes’s resolution failed last year when he introduced it under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority. Now under Republicans, the resolution is headed to a floor vote after being approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

Even so, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA, claimed the words “In God We Trust” are unconstitutional, an assertion that would likely stun James Madison and members of the first Congress who approved the First Amendment.

Can I just point out that “In God We Trust” did not become our national motto until the 1950s, as John Fea explained in “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction“:

In 1954 Congress approved an act to add the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance … In 1955 this connection between God and the United States was further strengthened when Congress opted to put the words “In God We Trust” on all United States coins and currency. The following years it changed the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to “In God We Trust.”

Allow me also to point out that in 1776, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were tasked with designing Great Seal of the United States, which they did – and it carried the phrase “E Pluribus Unum.”

In fact, “E Pluribus Unum” was considered the de facto motto of the United States for nearly two hundred years … until it was changed to “In God We Trust” in 1955.

So I am pretty sure that the Founding Fathers would be stunned to learn that the national motto is “In God We Trust,” given that Congress adopted the Great Seal with its motto of “E Pluribus Unum” in  1782.