E pluribus unum! The seal of the United States bears this Latin motto meaning “out of many one.” It expresses our heritage as a free society. We form a unified nation comprised of citizens representing diverse ethnicities, languages, customs, values, and religious convictions. Our union is not achieved despite our diversity; our diversity strengthens our union, much as a compound of chemicals forms a stronger substance.
Achieving and maintaining unity amidst diversity is a delicate undertaking, particularly in the realm of religious belief. I offer here a few reflections on that project.
Since 1791, our government has assumed the role of protecting freedom of conscience in religious matters. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights restricts governing authorities from enacting laws or wielding influence that necessitates or encourages religious conformity, and/or prohibits citizens from freely exercising any religious belief not employed as a cover for illegal activity. The government is to remain neutral on religion, while securing and protecting the freedom of all citizens to embrace any religion their conscience approves, or none at all.
In the history of nations, such liberty is a fresh concept. In ages past, nations viewed religious belief similarly to the way free societies view taxation today; namely, it was the duty of governing authorities to dictate terms to their subjects. When our government imposes taxes upon us, most of us dutifully comply without asking a lot of questions. Innocuous grumbling abounds, but we accept the necessity of taxation and the reality that nonconformity leads to prosecution. Read more about Defending Diversity in Our Unity