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Humanists Refute Congressional Prayer Caucus’ Criticism

For Immediate Release

(Washington, D.C., Dec. 9) The American Humanist Association (AHA) today blasted the Congressional Prayer Caucus (CPC) for criticizing President Barack Obama for using the motto "E Pluribus Unum." The CPC, a group of about 68 legislators, wrote a letter to Obama on Tuesday condemning his use of "E Pluribus Unum" in a recent speech, saying that he instead should be referring to "In God We Trust." The CPC also said Obama is not referring to God enough in his speeches, adding that he has repeatedly mentioned "inalienable rights" without giving credit for those rights to a divine authority. For these offenses, Obama should "issue a correction," the CPC said.

"This is a milestone week in the culture wars, for this week the religious right made it official that E Pluribus Unum offends them," said David Niose, AHA president, adding: "We shouldn't be surprised, because it has been clear for years that pluralism offends those who strive to make a biblical worldview the basis for public policy." 

E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one," was adopted by the founders and placed on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. Setting aside the Jeffersonian wall of church-state separation, Congress implemented “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956.  Niose said E Pluribus Unum perfectly captures the federal nature of American government - out of many states, one country - and the pluralistic nature of the American people - out of many immigrants and indigenous peoples, one American people. "To disparage the use of E Pluribus Unum is to criticize the fabric of American government and society," Niose said. "Obama should be commended for referring to it, not criticized. The CPC’s obsession with conservative theology and insistence on injecting that theology into governmental leadership works against America’s best interests." 

"To police the President’s language, using religious reference as an indicator of patriotism and freedom, rings of McCarthyism," Niose continued, "a mentality which has yielded nothing but negative consequences and is an embarrassing chapter in America's history. These practices are best left laid to rest.”

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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