|State recognition of God|
| Our founding fathers taught that every nation has a duty to acknowledge God. Immediately after the Constitution was ratified, Congress passed a resolution requesting the President to recommend a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging . . . the many signal favors of Almighty God.” George Washington’s proclamation begins, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson stated the basis for America’s freedom; “Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do.” I use Jefferson as an example, because he was the least Christian of all the founders.* Yet the ACLU would find him guilty of establishing religion in the law he wrote against such establishment.
The founders taught that the state must not interfere with people’s beliefs. At the same time, this requires the state to acknowledge the one who gave us this freedom.
The ACLU disagrees, putting forth this argument: “Because no god is acknowledged in the Constitution, and the federal government’s powers are limited to those enumerated in the Constitution, the federal government also has no power to acknowledge a god or gods. After the Civil War, the enactment of the 14th Amendment made the same prohibition applicable to the states.”
This argument is clever, and it seems to promote faithfulness to the Constitution, but it also reflects a common mistake of projecting a secular humanist worldview on a document written by Christians. The writers of the Constitution would never have agreed with the argument; no Christian could agree with it.
The argument starts with the assumption that the Congress would need the Constitution to give them the “power” to acknowledge a higher authority as if God could not require a duty to acknowledge him. The ACLU speaks of this acknowledgement as a special “power” rather than a submission of power. They want the Congress to have the power to ignore God, and they claim to find a precedent in the Constitution.
It is surprising that the preamble to the United States Constitution does not explicitly mention God, but this is far from a prohibition. In fact, the preamble affirms the theist view of procuring the “blessings of liberty.” Furthermore, the Constitution does acknowledge our Lord where the writers dated it, “in the Year of our Lord,” 1787. The writers acknowledged Christ as Lord.
The ACLU insists that this reference to the Lord means nothing. They say that “The Year of our Lord” was the standard way of dating important documents in the 1700s. They say that it was “ritualistic, not religious;” it was no more meaningful than a Christian referring to “Sunday” without regard to the pagan Sun god.
The writers were not following a meaningless ritual when they addressed Christ as Lord. All of them acknowledged the Lord, both in public and private, in legal documents and personal correspondence.
The Constitution acknowledges the Lordship of Christ and no other. The document actually avoids the term “sovereignty” in reference to our nation, because many of the founders used the term only in reference to Christ.
Our nation’s founders made it clear that our freedom comes from God. They believed in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. They believed in separation of church and state, not separation of God and state.
God defines the proper roles of church and state, not some maverick secular state. He defines our duties and freedoms.
|* Jefferson was the most influenced by Enlightenment thought. The few founders that were considered “deists” believed that God could be known through reason.|