RIGHT GOES AFTER OBAMA OVER NATIONAL MOTTO…. About a month ago, President Obama delivered a speech at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, and included a line in his remarks that seemed wholly unremarkable: “In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one.”

Of all the things for the right to complain about, they’re actually raising a fuss about this.

Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus have criticized President Barack Obama for telling an audience in Indonesia last month that the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” is a good summary of the American experience.

The Prayer Caucus, led by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), wrote to Obama today complaining that he called “E Pluribus Unum” the national motto during a Nov. 10 speech at a university in Jakarta. The national motto, the caucus insists, is actually “In God We Trust.”

The Congressional Prayer Caucus’ letter insisted to the president that he’s “casting aside an integral part of American society,” by “removing one of the cornerstones of our secure freedom.” The caucus added, “If we pull the thread of religious conviction out of the marketplace of ideas, we unravel the tapestry of freedom that birthed America.”

The members of Congress went on request that the president “issue a correction to the speech.”


What’s more, conservative and Republican activists actually seem to care about this. Fox News ran an item, as did TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey is outraged, or at least pretending to be, asking whether “high schools in Hawaii actually teach civics.”

Remember, these folks aren’t kidding. The president referenced E pluribus unum as our motto, and quite a few conservatives really are throwing a fit.

For the record, U.S. leaders chose E pluribus unum as the motto on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782, and was the country’s unofficial motto for nearly two centuries. That changed in 1956 when, as some kind of symbolic Cold War gesture, Congress chose “In God We Trust” as the official national motto. Both phrases appear on U.S. currency.

That this is a subject the right deems worthy of whining suggests conservatives have far too much time on their hands.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.