I often hear people tell me that the founders couldn’t possibly have wanted religion to be mixed with government because God is not mentioned in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. This is another objection that comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding, but I am only going to address the misunderstandings that pertain to the Constitution in this post. I will start by pointing out that Jesus is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. You’ll find Him in Article VII, paragraph 3:
done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
“The year of our Lord” is a direct reference to Jesus Christ. Now, I anticipate the usual objection that this was just the convention of the day and that it doesn’t mean anything, but that is a fallacious argument. One cannot argue that the founders were careful to omit God from our founding documents and then just overlooked this reference to Christ. What’s more, a careful examination of documents from the time will show that this was not “the convention of the times.” You will find many government and private documents from this period that were not dated in this way. However, you will also find that on official documents of this nature, it was done – and done deliberately. Read the Treaty of Paris sometime and you will find it starts with a direct reference to the Holy Trinity and ends with a mention of “The year of our Lord.” That Treaty directly and intentionally pointed to God, so it is more reasonable to assume the way the founders dated the Constitution was intended the same way than to assume it was just convention. So let’s put aside the assertion that God was not mentioned in the Constitution because He is – in the person of His Son, Christ.
THE ABSURDITY OF THE ASSERTION
Now, before I get into a more serious explanation as to why the founders did not mention God in the Constitution, let me make the point by using absurdity. If a lack of mention in the Constitution means the founders did not want God in our public life, then they did not want you and I to eat, breathe or have children, either. You won’t find any of those things mentioned in the Constitution. You also won’t find anything about working, playing, having fun – heck, there is a great deal that you will not find in the Constitution. So I guess this means the founders wanted to end life in America because they did not mention anything necessary to sustain it. Do you see the absurdity of the argument now? Well, in case you don’t, let’s look at the real reasons the founders did not focus on God in the Constitution.
THE U.S. CONSTITUTION ADDRESSES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Here again, this issue is connected to societal ignorance. Too many of us simply do not understand the difference between a Federal vs. National government. The founders understood the U.S. Constitution as creating a federal government. This means it governed the States and not the people, directly. This is a key point in this issue because, at the time the Constitution was written, many of the Colonies had official State religions and by 1703, all thirteen Colonies had some form of State support for religion. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not want to give the federal government authority to change this, and that is the primary reason we do not see God or religion addressed in the Constitution. As the Federalists explained, the Constitution was only intended to address those few, enumerated areas where the federal government was given authority. According to the Federalists, if the Constitution does not mention it, then the federal government has no authority over it – period! This is the most reasonable explanation for why you do not find religion in the U.S. Constitution.
Now, if we look to the States, we will find that State-supported religion did not end until after 1868. In addition, all fifty State Constitutions specifically acknowledge God. Before the movement to destroy the U.S. Constitution started to take hold, there was no federal attempt to change this, and that is a nail in the coffin of those who argue that the founders wanted religion removed from the public sector. On the contrary; in 1853-54, Congress found that, had the founders actually tried to create a secular government, it is likely the Colonists would have revolted against them:
“Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to wage war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle.”
–The House Judiciary Committee report of 1853-54
THE FOUNDERS SPECIFICALLY SAID RELIGION SHOULD INFLUENCE DAILY LIFE
Now, let’s address the historical record by looking at what the founders had to say about religion in politics and education:
“Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
–John Jay, only the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
This is the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by Washington and confirmed by many of the men who wrote the Constitution and later ratified the Bill of Rights. And look at what he says: not only is religion to play a role in our politics, we have a duty to elect Christian leaders. This is another nail in the coffin of those who argue the founders wanted a ‘secular’ government. And consider these words from another renowned Chief Justice about the importance of religion in our public and private lives:
The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it.
–John Marshal, 4th Chief Justice of the United States and argue by some to be our greatest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Now, let’s look at what they said about religion in our government:
Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned… [L]et us earnestly call and beseech Him, for Christ’s sake, to preside in our councils. . . . We can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God, Whose Divine aid and assistance it becomes us as a Christian people most devoutly to implore. Therefore I move that some minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning . . . in order to open the meeting with prayer.
– Elias Boudinot, Served as President of Congress, signed the Peace Treaty of Paris to end the War for Independence, framer of the Bill of Rights, and respondent to Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason with The Age of Revelation
And we should also remember that the Convention started with a three hour prayer, and when it started to falter, it was Franklin who stood up and said their failures were due to forgetting to include God in their work. In fact, before Franklin appealed for daily prayer at the Convention, it looked as though it would fail, but after his plea, the Constitution was written in relatively short order:
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God Governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
Now, let’s look at what they said about religion in school:
[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind.”
…we have a dangerous trend beginning to take place in our education….We’ve become accustomed of late to putting little books in the hands of children containing fables with moral lessons. We are spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principle text in our schools. The Bible states these great moral lessons better than any other man made book.
– Fisher Ames, author of the final wording for the First Amendment
Religion is the solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward God.
–Gouverneur Morris, delegate to the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, head of the committee which created the final wording of the Constitution and the most active speaker, US Senator, Minister to France appointed by Washington
[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.
We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
Surely future generations wouldn’t try to take the Bible out of schools. In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, if we were to remove the Bible from schools, I lament that we could be wasting so much time and money in punishing crime and would be taking so little pains to prevent them.
–Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, gratifier of the U.S. Constitution, Father of American medicine, founder of 5 universities and – at the time – one of the three men the Colonists considered most influential and important to the Revolution
And what the founders had to say about those who would attack religion in the public square:
In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate — look at his character. It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, men of truth, hating covetousness. It is to the neglect of this rule that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breaches of trust, speculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country and which disgrace our government. When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.
In fact, for some time after the Constitution was ratified, the founders would fine you, imprison you – or both – just for speaking badly about Christianity:
Blasphemy against the Almighty is denying his being or providence, or uttering contumelious reproaches on our Savior Christ. It is punished, at common law by fine and imprisonment, for Christianity is part of the laws of the land.
–Charles Pinckney, Signer of the U.S. Constitution
And this can continue, if it would do any good. The issue is always the same: if this is not sufficient to change the mind of a person who thought the founders wanted a secular government, nothing will. They are closed minded and want to cling to what they want to be true and not what actually is true. However, as you can see from the evidence I’ve presented, the idea of a secular government or even a separation of government and religion was not what the founders had in mind. In truth, this is a more modern invention, created by secular humanists who wish to destroy the Constitution so they can try to re-create man and society according to their own desires.