To the editor:
In 1956, the United States Congress adopted our nation's first"official motto." Prior to that, our unofficial motto was the Latin phrase, "E pluribus unum" (out of many, one.) The unofficial motto was quintessentially patriotic. It described our unity, our shared goals and our American individualism. The unofficial motto also had the benefit of being true for all Americans, and therefore actually said something about our country and its people.
In the early days of our great country's formation, the founders knew to create a Bill of Rights. First among those was the right to think and speak freely. Parsed within that freedom were the various aspects such a right entails. In surety of that right's primacy, the law restricted the government from infringing on any citizen's freedom to practice the religion of his or her choice. Before anything else was said, Congress specifically (and by extension the entire government) determined it may pass no laws respecting an establishment of religion. Yet in 1956 Congress violated that trust, passing a law declaring that we are effectively a monotheistic theocracy, that we are a people who trust in God (with a capital "G.")
Many will say, "What does it matter?" As a motto, it's certainly true of followers of the Abrahamic traditions, of Zoroastrians and of deists. In a looser sense, it's also true of pagans and Hindus (although in their case it envelopes their pantheons into a single godhead.) It's sort of true of pantheists, Hermeticists, Brahminists and even LaVeyan Satanists in a nebulous way. It's untrue of Buddhists, but they aren't likely to complain, and, who cares about the atheists, so what does it matter?
It matters because this country is free only so long as it endeavors to be free for every person. The founders knew this, and they knew that religious convictions were the one thing a government should never be concerned with. The government might be concerned with how you treat and educate your children. It might be concerned with how you husband your animals and steward your property. It might even be concerned with how you make your money, and how you practice your beliefs if that practice imposes on others, but it should never be concerned with what you believe.
So when Congress declared on your behalf, on my behalf and on behalf of every man, woman and child who would be called American that he or she trusts in God, they did the most un-Constitutional, un-patriotic and un-American thing imaginable. They violated the very principal on which this whole nation had staked its raison d'etre.
If you are an American, you know that you have no business dictating the religious opinions of your neighbor. If you are a patriot, you have no desire to even begin to reshape this land-of-the-free into a nation that would impose any religious beliefs - including your own - on anyone. E pluribus unum, and in the Constitution we trust. Your God beliefs are your own affair.
J. David Core