E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, one

Ellis Island

On July 4, 1776, a committee of Founding Fathers put forth the U.S. motto: E Pluribus Unum.

“Out of many, one.”

It was a good idea for 180 years. Then, the zealots at the gate of freedom began to change the narrative. The 84th Congress passed legislation – and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on July 30, 1956 – declaring “In God We Trust” the national motto.

The separation of church and state was fused.

The Southern Strategy

During this time, the civil rights movement was gaining traction. In opposition, the Republican Party outlined an electoral strategy aimed at white voters in the South, appealing to racism against Blacks.

The “Southern Strategy” was breathed life by New York politician Jacob Javits, Arizona firebrand Barry Goldwater, and Harry Dent Sr., a political strategist from South Carolina. Later, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan pushed these ideals during their campaigns and administrations.

Simultaneously, Paul Weyrich helped launch The Heritage Foundation in 1973. His right-hand man was Laszlo Pasztor, a former leader of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, which had collaborated with Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.

A crucial aspect of the strategy was the “Religious Right.” Led by Baptist pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell, Weyrich – described as “the Lenin of social conservatism” – was one of the movement’s architects. The “Moral Majority” (oh, the irony) promoted itself as “pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-moral, and pro-American.” It delivered two-thirds of the white evangelical vote to Reagan during the 1980 presidential election.

According to Jimmy Carter, “That autumn [1980], a group headed by Jerry Falwell purchased $10 million in commercials on southern radio and TV to brand me as a traitor to the South and no longer a Christian.”

Oh, the irony, indeed.

In March 1987, it was revealed that televangelist Jim Bakker had a sexual encounter with Jessica Hahn and had paid for her silence. Bakker believed that Jimmy Swaggart was attempting to take over his ministry because Swaggart had initiated a church investigation into allegations of Bakker’s sexual misconduct.

Later, Swaggart had a memorable “I have sinned” moment when he admitted to a 1988 prostitution scandal. He eschewed Jesus taking the wheel by manhandling the reins of the holier-than-thou wagon in 1991. Swaggy was involved in yet another prostitution scandal but refused to address it, telling his congregation: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina political consultant Lee Atwater was doing his thing within the Reagan administration. In 1981, he laid bare what the Republican strategy was for the South:

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ – that hurts you. Backfires. So, you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously, maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me – because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

• • •

The day after the 1984 presidential election, Atwater became a senior partner at the political consulting firm of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. Yes, that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager (and, not surprisingly, a convicted felon) and that Roger Stone, a longtime GOP dirty trickster, campaign adviser, and political lobbyist (and, not surprisingly, a convicted felon).

A did-you-know moment that is a real-life “oh, really” is that Trump was Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly’s first client, retained “for help with federal issues such as obtaining a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel to the Atlantic City marina to accommodate his yacht, the Trump Princess.”

Project 2025

Meanwhile, Falwell remained newsworthy with his views on the Teletubby Tinky Winky, an intended “homosexual role model,” and the Sept. 11 attacks, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ ”

A new regime of evangelical Christian nationalists continued to push the far-right’s agenda, including Ralph Reed, who Pat Robertson tabbed as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition. Robertson, a Southern Baptist, was a proponent of “evangelical religiocentrism,” defined as the “conviction that a person’s religion is more important or superior to other religions.”

Reed founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2009. On June 8, 2017, President Trump supported the organization and vowed to protect religious liberty and expand the role of religion in politics and education.

To that end, The Heritage Foundation has published Project 2025, a 900-page collection of policy proposals to reshape the federal government’s executive branch.

Former Trump administration official Russell Vought, who is involved in the project, said, “The president, Day One, will be a wrecking ball for the administrative state.” The project’s proposals include undoing the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (an act many Republicans on the campaign trail take credit for despite voting against the Act), taking partisan control of the DOJ, the FBI, the Department of Commerce, the FCC, and Federal Trade Commission, dismantling the Department of Homeland Security, and sharply reducing environmental and climate change regulations to favor fossil fuel production.

Moreover, Project 2025 seeks to infuse the government with elements of Christianity, bolstering the already-pressed idea of the separation of church and state. The Project recommends abolishing the Department of Education and reforming the National Institutes of Health (NIH) along conservative principles.

The Project urges the government to explicitly reject abortion as health care and eliminate coverage of emergency contraception under the Affordable Care Act. It proposes criminalizing pornography, removing legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and terminating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, as well as affirmative action.

We the People …

It’s been 248 years since the Declaration of Independence was John Hancock’d at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Only 90,580 days. … Eleven years later, the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.

It begins: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Not we, the Christians, or whites, or men – we, the many, the still-to-come, the different-than-you, the one people.

Leaving the building, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic, if you can keep it,” he quipped.

There were 4,543 words in the original four-page U.S. Constitution. Today, the document contains 7,591 words, including its 27 amendments. … The word “God” does not appear in the Constitution, and it notes, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Our Constitution is not self-actuating or self-correcting. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. And we must keep it.

The past two-plus generations that have sought to inject their religion into our nationalism will not rewrite history. E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, one – remains as pertinent today as the time John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman put ink to paper, “We hold these truths to be self-evident …”