The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

It Might Help to Read the Constitution

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A recent USA Today article reported that “most Americans believe the nation’s founders wrote Christianity into the Constitution.”[1] The article went on to say “that 55% believe erroneously that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.” Actually, I’m rather surprised by these results. I would have thought that most Americans, with all the secular propaganda that issues forth from out government-controlled educational institutions, that a majority of respondents would have adopted the secularist notion that the Constitution of devoid of anything related to religion.

Of course, anyone who has read the Constitution knows that it does not establish a Christian nation. As I will show, the Constitution assumes that America was founded on basic Christian principles, some of which are written into the Constitution. Part of the problem in dealing with issues related to the Constitution is that a majority of Americans have never read or studied it. Gene Policinski, the executive director at the First Amendment Center, had this to say about the responses the Center received: “We are seeing the product of years of not teaching the First Amendment at a young age.” I would add that it doesn’t help that the actual wording of the First Amendment is rarely if ever mentioned in debates over religion and civil government. All we hear is “separation of church and state,” a phrase that doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution. And it’s not just young people who don’t have a grasp of the content and meaning of the Constitution.

In the September 18 issue of USA Today, the editorial staff of the paper offered its own opinion of the survey. The editorial states, “In fact, the Constitution doesn’t mention Christianity, or God at all. . . . The poll shows widespread ignorance of basic freedoms and a belief that many of the Constitution’s rights apply only to some Americans, not all.”[2] Is this true?

The Constitution declares, in words just above George Washington’s signature, that the proceedings were “DONE . . . in the Year of our Lord” 1787, an obvious reference to Jesus Christ. Sunday is set aside as a day of rest for the President in Article 1, section 7 of the Constitution. This particular day of rest singles out a particular religion—Christianity.

As I mentioned above, while the Constitution does not establish a Christian nation, it certainly maintain an existing Christian moral order. Otherwise, what do we make of the 1774 congressional prayer offered by Jacob Duché which begins with “Lord our Heavenly Father, High and Mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords” and ends with “all this we ask In the Name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior”? On March 16, 1776, Congress called for a “day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer . . . to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him.” And for the people “to bewail their manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies.”

On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of public thanksgiving for the recent victory at Saratoga. Congress set December 18, 1777 as a day of thanksgiving on which the American people “may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor” and on which they might “join the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.” Congress also recommended that Americans petition God “to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

The Constitution did nothing to change any of these Christian manifestations in the civil realm of government. The editorial board of USA Today might want to take another look at the Constitution with the above points in mind. In fact, its members might want to read, maybe for the first time!

Footnotes:
[1]
Andrea Stone, “Most Think Founders wanted Christian USA,” USA Today (September 12, 2007), 2A
[2]
“God and the Constitution,” USA Today (September 18, 2007), 10A.
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