Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her colleagues on the Congressional Prayer Caucus penned a letter to President Obama Monday, attacking him for his alleged failure to the use the word "God" and "Creator" more in his public speeches, especially abroad.
The complaint came in the context of an address given by Obama on November 10th at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, in which he remarked that the American "motto is E pluribus unum -- out of many, one."
The Congressional Prayer Caucus finds a factual inaccuracy with this statement, and believes that it could be a sign of a more telling problem.
"E pluribus unum is not our national motto. In 1956, Congress passed and President Eisenhower approved the law establishing 'In God We Trust' as the official national motto of the United States," the letter reads. "[Y]ou mentioned being unified under one flag. The Pledge of Allegiance to our flag says that we are 'one nation under God.'"
In neglecting to use the word "God," they say Obama is "casting aside an integral part of American society."
It's worth mentioning that the Caucus is legally correct in their contention about the national motto, though E pluribus unum had stood as the nation's de facto motto for nearly two centuries before the law officially selecting "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto was passed by Congress. It's also still printed on coins.
The charges of the Congressional Prayer Caucus reach far beyond this simple technicality, however. In their letter, the members accuse Obama of failing to mention that the source of "inalienable rights" given in the Declaration of Independence is a "Creator." "Omitting the word 'Creator' once was a mistake; but twice establishes a pattern," they claim.
They also say Obama is "removing one of the cornerstones of our secure freedom" by not referencing "God" more frequently and directly. This conviction is apparently based on a belief by John Adams that "It is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand."
What the Congressional Prayer Caucus doesn't include is the context of Obama's speech, which, if numbers count in this case, included the word "God' four times.
In one particular passage, Obama speaks of Indonesia's growing embrace of religious freedom:
Such is Indonesia's spirit. Such is the message of Indonesia's inclusive philosophy, Pancasila. (Applause.) Across an archipelago that contains some of God's most beautiful creations, islands rising above an ocean named for peace, people choose to worship God as they please. Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths. Development is strengthened by an emerging democracy. Ancient traditions endure, even as a rising power is on the move.
According to the Minnesota Independent, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has issued a biting response to the letter.
"The Prayer Caucus should just admit that it is looking for any opportunity to bash the president," the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a statement on Monday. "It's not very Christian of them, but I expect nothing less from a body that takes its marching orders from the Religious Right."
Added Lynn, "This is one of the silliest manufactured controversies I've ever seen, and I would advise the president to deal with it by tossing the caucus' letter into the nearest wastebasket."
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