City Council Unanimously Approves 'E Pluribus Unum'
• 'In God We Trust' Was Rejected
BY BILL KOENEKER
Malibu City Council members made a successful attempt this week at adopting a motto for public display at City Hall when they unanimously approved E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "Out of Many, One.
In stark contrast to the public debate and council deliberations when considering "In God We Trust," there was no public speakers or comments, there was no council debate or comments, and the directive passed on a simple voice vote.
The impetus for the motto adoption came about after the last council session when it was split on allowing the display of the motto, "In God We Trust" at City Hall.
Councilmembers Lou La Monte and Pamela Conley Ulich favored it and Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmembers John Sibert and Jefferson Wagner were opposed.
Instead, the council decided they would discuss placing another motto in City Hall.
Conley Ulich and La Monte had wanted their colleagues to consider the matter of placing what is our country's national motto in City Hall.
"I'm really against bringing this up," said Mayor Laura Rosenthal. "I agree with John and Jay, patriotism does not have anything to do with it. I feel strongly about the separation of church and state."
The mayor suggested E Pluribus Unum. "That is a great motto," she said. Other council members concurred.
Various sources describe E Pluribus Unum, which is on coins and currency, as the federal government's unofficial first motto until it was officially replaced with "In God We Trust" by the U.S. Congress in 1957.
The phrase is included in the seal of the United States and that of the President and Congress.
Some historians maintain the phrase originally suggested that out of many colonies or states emerged a single nation. In recent years it has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation
According to the city manager, on July 30, 1957, the U.S. code section 302 established the saying "In God We Trust" found on U.S. dollar bills and coins as the country's national motto.
On Nov. 13, 2002, the 107th Congress "reaffirmed the exact language that has appeared in the motto for decades," according to City Manager Jim Thorsen's research.
In God We Trust—America, Inc. was put together to promote the display of the national motto in city halls and county headquarters across the country during the last couple of years.
According to the campaign's website, 364 cities or counties across the country, including 89 in California, have approved the displays.
However, the motto is not without controversy. For a long time, critics have contended the words are indeed a matter of "law respecting an establishment of religion," by the government and violates the establishment clause of the first amendment and the separation of church and state.
Critics went to court in 1970, but the appellate court ruled otherwise, saying "It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."
The U. S. Supreme Court, in settling the matter, also held that the nation's "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of such a state church as the Constitution's authors intended to prohibit."