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Santorum Abuses ‘E Pluribus Unum’

Americans get manipulated daily by the Right’s false references to U.S. founding principles, most recently by Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and his misrepresentation of what “E Pluribus Unum” means.

The phrase, Latin for “from many, one,” was a motto of the 13 original colonies banding together in 1776 to demand independence from the United Kingdom. It has remained a national slogan for the togetherness of a diverse country ever since.The motto "E Pluribus Unum" in the Great Seal of the United States

However, Santorum has transformed this motto of unity into the latest cultural wedge issue of division, claiming it means the United States, as “a moral enterprise,” must reject government secularism respecting religious diversity in favor of “traditional Judeo-Christian principles” based on the Bible.

At a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona, on Wednesday, Santorum said, “The greatness of America is we have such diversity, with the proviso — ‘E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one.’ Essentially we are going to need to hold together on some set of moral codes and principles.” The ex-senator from Pennsylvania then added, “And we’re seeing very evidently what the president’s moral codes and principles are about. We see a president who is systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian principles in this country.”

In other words, Santorum believes that despite the wide-ranging differences in the United States regarding religious and moral issues, Americans must abide by one Biblical standard of “traditional Judeo-Christian principles,” Santorum’s version of “E Pluribus Unum, from many, one.”

Yet, America’s founding documents, particularly the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, created a secular system of government, one that guaranteed both freedom of and freedom from religion. Americans were free to practice their religious faiths but they could not use the government to impose their religious views on others.

The Constitution, which is as secular as any document could be, contains not a single word regarding the supremacy of Judeo-Christian religions or values. It makes no reference to God at all. Indeed, its singular reference to religion is that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

After the Constitution was ratified in 1788, a Bill of Rights was added in 1791. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That means the government can do nothing to promote religion or punish people for their religious views, the so-called separation of church and state.

However, it has become a central goal of the Religious Right to confuse Americans about these core principles, by insisting that – contrary to the governing documents that the Founders created – they really intended a form of theocracy committed to Biblical teachings and imposing religious tenets on the people of the United States.

Similarly, the Right has snatched a few quotes out of context to transform James Madison and other drafters of the Constitution into people who opposed a strong central government and favored a system of states rights, when the historical reality is nearly the opposite: the framers scrapped the Articles of Confederation because that original governing structure hamstrung the new nation with a weak central government dominated by “independent” states. [For details, see’s “The Right’s Inside-Out Constitution.”]

Now, Rick Santorum is using America’s founding motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” as if it meant that out of the Many differing views that Americans had then and have now about public religion and personal morality that One set of religious/moral standards, based on “traditional Judeo-Christian principles,” must be established for the United States and imposed on its people.

Presumably, a President Rick Santorum would be in charge of selecting which Biblical edicts must be followed.

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