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.
–Noah Webster, father of American education
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.
8 thoughts on “Why there is no Mention of Religion in the Constitution”
I don’t have much time, but thought I would call attention at least to flaws in your first two points.
First, you make much of the Constitution’s date, which, in keeping with the convention of the time, is keyed to the Christian calendar, without actually offering any reason this trivial observation should be regarded as substantive or significant.
More important, though, the dating language is, in any event, immaterial to the founders’ intent since it is not part of the text of the Constitution proposed, discussed, voted upon, or adopted by the Convention or ratified by the states. It was apparently just appended by the scrivener who prepared copies of the document. http://www.philipvickersfithian.com/2011/05/us-constitution-and-year-of-our-lord.html
Second, your absurdity point is, well, absurd. You suppose that no inference can be drawn from the “lack of mention” of god(s) in the Constitution reasoning that lots of things—really important things, like breathing—also are not mentioned and we certainly don’t thus infer that the founders by omitting a reminder to breathe meant us to die. Overlooked or unrecognized by this silly argument is that an inference can logically be drawn from the lack of mention of god(s) if one has reason to expect that god(s) normally would have been mentioned. And in this instance, we have good reason. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice.
Indeed, that very aspect of the Constitution was noticed and discussed in the debates about its ratification, since some were disappointed the Constitution did not acknowledge a deity. Imagine their surprise at how little you now make of that omission and how much you make of the dating language.
Dude, how you ever made it through law school is testimony to the decrepit state of our legal system.
1 — When it was pointed out to Hamilton that they had forgotten to mention God in the draft that was submitted, he acted with genuine surprise and admitted they had overlooked it. Anyone who knows how devout Hamilton was will understand the significance of Hamilton’s reply.
2 — RELIGION IS MENTIONED IN THE CONSTITUTION!!! Read more, you shallow thinker. It is mentioned in the system of oaths, the structure of the document and even the omission of Sunday as a work day, If omitting God’s name is to be seen as an intentional decision as you claim, THEN ADDING THE WAY GOD SAID TO LIVE IS EVEN MORE SO! If waht we say whispers, then what we do SCREAMS!
3 — I noticed you ignored the reason the States did not want the Constitution to meddle in affairs of religion: BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO SURRENDER THAT AUTHORITY!
Honestly, I have tired of your objections. They are fallacious from front to read. To put this simply, YOU – ARE – WRONG! And it is not I but the founders who say so. try reading everything, Doug — before you show everyone that you are more interested in your agenda than you are the truth. 🙂
1. You seriously think the reason the founders did not mention god(s) in the Constitution is that they simply forgot? That notion, take note, largely conflicts with your third point, i.e., that the founders intentionally omitted religion from the Constitution in order to leave that subject to the states. That indeed was at least one of the reasons the founders separated the federal government from religion—so such matters were left to the states and individuals.
The Hamilton story is widely regarded as apocryphal. Certainly there is no confirmation of it in historical records. Moreover, many interpret the response attributed to him, i.e., “we forgot,” as a wisecrack, not a serious explanation. That this conversation supposedly occurred during a period in Hamilton’s life when he was not particularly religious lends support to such a view.
2. Am I to take your silence about the date appended to the Constitution as a concession that that item at least is immaterial to the founders’ intent?
You insist nonetheless and in all capital letters no less that religion is mentioned in the Constitution, invoking the “system of oaths, the “structure of the document,” and “the omission of Sunday as a work day. You grasp at straws.
First, I’m not sure what you would make of the Constitution’s provision for oaths, but it certainly does not lend itself to some sort of Christian nation claim. The Constitution specifies that various federal and state officers shall be bound by “oath or affirmation” to support the Constitution, “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” U.S. Const., art. VI, sec. 3. (The no-religious-test clause, by the way, is the only substantive provision about religion in the original Constitution.) An affirmation does not carry any theistic implications. The logical inference thus is that the Constitution is indifferent whether office holders are theists or atheists. John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law, and Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when he took the oath.
Second, you allude to the “Sundays excepted” clause, but misinterpret it and infuse it with meaning it simply does not have. It does not, as you suppose, call for no government work on that day or encourage a day of inactivity or even preclude a President from vetoing bills on Sundays. It merely excepts Sundays from the count of ten days a President has to veto bills and, thus, assures a President the better part of two work weeks for that purpose. The clause serves, if anything, to protect the President from losing time in effect as a result of the operation of state laws, prevalent at the time of the founding, restricting activities on Sundays, including travel.
Third, as for the structure of the Constitution, it reflects the separation, not the joining, of the federal government and religion. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them in the structure of the document by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.
3. With respect to your third point, as noted above, I agree that one reason the founders separated the federal government and religion in the Constitution was to leave matters of religion to the states and individuals. Why you suppose I “ignored” that and what significance you would make of it are not apparent.
No, Doug, I think they did not need to mention it because they said they would NEVER kick religion from the public square and that they couldn’t even IMAGINE someone like you would ever be called an American. I know this is true because I posted their words in a post you obviously have not read or will not acknowledge.
This is my problem with you: YOU CHERRY PICK — then you tell me I am the one cherry picking. You are a hypocrite and you deny the truth of what the FOUNDERS said. That is to tell the man in your mirror that he does not know his own mind, but then, this is to be expected from someone with your spirit. You do not understand the light.
That is why our exchanges are useless: you cannot see the truth. I write for those who can and chose to do so. You, Doug, are a lost cause.
I have had this discussion with Dougindeep for several years now. I want you to be aware that he is very good at deflecting from the issues that are actually at hand. He does this intentionally: it is the only way he can present what appears to be a ‘winning’ argument. But notice how he goes from whether or not the founders intentionally established a ‘secular’ government to “they did not mention religion in the Constitution.’ As I explain in the different posts under this topic, this is NOT the issue.
If Doug was intellectually honest, he would not worry about a word the founders omitted (when religion IS mentioned in the Constitution), he would be arguing the definition of secular, or using the FOUNDERS’ words to show that this is what they said they wanted. But he cannot do that — because the definition and the founders’ words both support my assertion. So he has to avoid them or concede the point and the argument.
This brings us to the next thing Doug likes to do: he only picks narrow points where he ‘thinks’ he can win his case while ignoring the rest of the evidence. This is like the blind man who grabs the elephant by the trunk insisting that the elephant is like a snake and that the sighted man looking at the ENTIRE elephant is wrong. If Doug ever admits to the founders’ words, he has to concede the point, and I have clearly demonstrated that the founders said they had ZERO intention of removing religion from the public arena — government included. Their words and deeds (actions) demonstrate they intended the opposite.
So we are left with a self-evident TRUTH! Doug is lying to you and himself. The historical record proves it; all you have to do is read what I have taken time to present and notice that Doug and those like him have never once — NOT ONCE — cited a founder saying that they intentionally wanted to remove God from everything to do with government. If that is what they wanted to do, don’t you think THOSE men would have said so?
Good article! Belittling opponents lessens one’s credibility and character however.
Please revise: I often *here* people… –> hear
I try to edit my posts, but I confess, I rely too much on the editing software and that does not always serve me well — especially when the program tries to guess the words I want rather than letting me type them. 😦
Anyway, I edited the miss-spelled word. Thanks for the help.
I also accept your criticism. You are correct: ad hominem has no place. But again, I am growing, and this blog is a record of where I started and where I am now. I still have a difficult time with people who refuse to learn, but I hope I have gotten better in my more recent work and trust that readers such as yourself will let me know when I haven’t. 🙂