Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Answer to the "Godless Constitution" Thesis

That's because religion was left to the states.


Alabama, 1901: "We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution."

Alaska, 1956: "We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska."

Arizona, 1911: "We the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution."

Arkansas, 1874: "We the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government; for our civil and religious liberty; and desiring to perpetuate its blessings; and secure the same to our selves and posterity; do ordain and establish this Constitution."

California, 1879: "We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution."

Colorado, 1876: "We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice, insure tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for 'the State of Colorado.'"

Connecticut, 1818: "The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy the blessings of liberty, free government, do, in order more effectually to define, secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights, and privileges which they have derived from their ancestors, hereby, after a careful consideration and revision, ordain and establish the following constitution and form of civil government."

Delaware, 1897: "Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences."

Florida, 1885: "We, the people of the state of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution..."

Georgia, 1777: "We the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Hawaii, 1949: "We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, and mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island state, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by our state motto: 'Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.'"

Idaho, 1890: "We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution"

Illinois, 1870: "We the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which he hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Illinois."

Indiana, 1851: "WE, the people of the State of Indiana, grateful to ALMIGHTY GOD for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government, do ordain this constitution."

Iowa, 1857: "We the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings establish this Constitution."

Kansas, 1859: "We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution."

Kentucky, 1891: "We, the people of the Commonwealth, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, and religious liberties we enjoy, and invoking the continuance of these blessings, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Louisiana, 1921: "We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, and religious liberties we enjoy, and desiring to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property... do ordain and establish this constitution."

Maine, 1820: "We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State..."

Maryland, 1867: "We the people of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, and taking into our serious consideration the best means of establishing a good Constitution in this State for the sure foundation and more permanent security thereof, declare..."

Massachusetts, 1780: "We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

Michigan, 1963: "We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, and earnestly desiring to secure these blessings undiminished to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution."

Minnesota, 1857: "We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings and secure the same to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Mississippi, 1890: "We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Missouri, 1875: "We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness, do establish this Constitution for the better government of the State."

Montana, 1889: "We the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a State government, do, in accordance with the provisions of the Enabling Act of Congress, approved the twenty-second of February A.D. 1889, ordain and establish this constitution."

Nebraska, 1875: "We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, do ordain and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government, as the Constitution of the State of Nebraska."

Nevada, 1864: "We the people of the State of Nevada Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom in order to secure its blessings, insure domestic tranquility, and form a more perfect Government, do establish this Constitution."

New Jersey, 1844: "We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this constitution."

New Mexico, 1911: "We, the people of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a state government, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

New York, 1846: "WE, THE PEOPLE of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, DO ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION."

North Carolina, 1868: "We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution."

North Dakota, 1889: "We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain and establish this constitution."

Ohio, 1851: "We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution."

Oklahoma, 1907: "Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Oregon: Religious language is not found in the preamble, but Article I, Section 2 of the State Bill of Rights asserts that "All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences."

Pennsylvania, 1874: "WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Rhode Island, 1843: "We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government."

South Carolina,1895: "We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same."

South Dakota, 1889: "We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties, in order to form a more perfect and independent government, establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and preserve to ourselves and to our posterity the blessings of liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of South Dakota."

Tennessee, Section 3, 1870: "All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience."

Texas, 1845: "We, the people of the republic of Texas, acknowledging with gratitude the grace and beneficence of God, in permitting us to make a choice of our form of government, do, in accordance with the provisions of the joint resolution for annexing Texas to the United States, approved March first, one thousand eight hundred and forty-five, ordain and establish this constitution."

Utah: "Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we, the people of Utah, in order to secure and perpetuate the principles of free government, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION."

Vermont, 1777: "Whereas, all government ought to be instituted and supported for the security and protection of the community as such and to enable the individuals who compose it, to enjoy their natural rights, and the other blessings which the Author of existence has bestowed upon man; and whenever those great ends of government are not obtained, the people have a right, by common consent, to change it, and take such measures as to them may appear necessary to promote their safety and happiness."

Virginia, Section 16, 1776: "That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."

Washington, 1889: "We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution."

West Virginia, 1862: "Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia, in and through the provisions of this Constitution, reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God and seek diligently to promote, preserve and perpetuate good government in the state of West Virginia for the common welfare, freedom and security of ourselves and our posterity."

Wisconsin, 1848: "We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution."

Wyoming, 1890: "We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political and religious liberties, and desiring to secure them to ourselves and perpetuate them to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution."


Via Michael Novak and Ashley Elizabeth Morrow

45 comments:

CybrgnX said...

Well the national government may have had enlighted self interest and intelligence when formed but the states sure had Xtians in charge and pushing their agendas.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think this is a useful corrective to the observation that the Constitution is indeed GODLESS.

I would note, though, that most of the references to "God" in those state constitutions are generic. If we form an LCD or even a "consensus" of state constitutional invocations to God we get a "Providential" or "theistic" political theology, not a "Christian," certainly not an "orthodox Christian" Founding.

"Judeo-Christian"? Maybe. However that term still needs more explication. Again, TODAY I witnessed this in an online debate elsewhere: when I pressed a debater for what "Judeo-Christian" means, the answer I got = "orthodox Christianity" -- original sin, Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, etc. -- with "Judeo" tacked on for fun.

When one looks at the way terms are thrown around in these debates, the religious conservative side oft-interchangeably invokes "Christian" and "Judeo-Christian" Foundations. Most of them have NO CLUE what this means or how these terms might properly define in a political-theological sense.

Tom Van Dyke said...

'Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono'

The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.---Hawaii state motto

Yes, Jon, there are many of the Christian persuasion who don't realize that "Judeo-" means Christ's divinity is not addressed.

However, it's often overlooked that this personal and providential God of "theism" resembles no other god in human history but one.

And I'm glad you agree the 50 preambles are an effective rebuttal to those who routinely advance the Godless Constitution thesis.

J said...

These quotes do not at all refute the claim that the Constitution does not specify which religion (or supposed "God") should be considered official--if any. "Almighty God" appears (really, one might even ask whether "God" even suffices as the right translation for "Dei"), but He's not necessarily the same dude as Supreme Legislator, Ruler, Creator, or "the Author of existence." It could be read as judeo-christian, but some might read it as Deistic or unitarian, etc. Not sure we should assume that the Author of Existence was pals with God.

At any rate, the invocation is itself not a law, but merely like a prelude to the writing of the great legal minds which follows.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well the national government may have had enlighted self interest and intelligence when formed but the states sure had Xtians in charge and pushing their agendas.

But of course, these were the very same Xtians who ratified the constitution!

Anonymous said...

Tom- you wouldn't accept the logic of your argument in the other direction, would you? Meaning that since the national constitution neglects devotional mention of Judeo-Christian, that makes the state constitutions irreligious? Why can't we just think of them as two separate things: a godless national constitution and many godly state constitutions?

Mark D. said...

Not quite 50 preambles, but the vast majority of states -- 48 I believe -- do have some time of God-language in their preambles.

The First Amendment is best understood in its original context as standing as a federalism amendment. It was designed to guarantee that the federal government, acting through Congress, would not disturb the states in how they conducted religious affairs.

The question now, though, post-14th Amendment, is whether the requirements that the First Amendment places on the federal government now pertain to the states as well. That's the controversy behind the doctrine of incorporation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mark,

I think insofar as the First Amendment pertains to individual rights (liberty and equality rights) it most certainly does apply to the states via the privileges or immunities and equal protection clauses.

The question then is whether things like "under God" uttered by state and local governments violate such unalienable equality rights that demands government treat the atheist and the Christian as equal citizens under the law.

Louis Cipher said...

"The question then is whether things like "under God" uttered by state and local governments violate such unalienable equality rights that demands government treat the atheist and the Christian as equal citizens under the law."

I don't understand how they even have an argument. I am not a religious person. I don't know what I believe but I know that I don't believe that religion holds the answers... but these people that fight the commandments at a courthouse or feel that they are somehow not "equal" because we say "under god" or "in god we trust (all others must pay cash)" don't make any sense to me. Other people expressing their views and beliefs does not in any way harm you or your expression of your own beliefs.

You are guaranteed freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. It just seems to me like a way for people to force their views upon others.

The founders were Christian. Protestant mostly. They believed that a solid Christian foundation was what would propel this country to greatness, and they were right. Now that you see that slipping away, so too do you see our prosperity slipping away, as this country descends into chaos.

bpabbott said...

Louis,

The best argument I've heard against the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge is that the non-believing patriot is placed in the position of having to choose between his principles of non-belief and patriotism.

The post 1954 pledge implies that non-belief is incompatible with patriotism.

There are several reasons why such is implied. I list three below.

(1) These two words were added during the Eisenhower administration in response to the communist scare (i.e. Godless communists).

(2) After this changed was signed into law, President Eisenhower said,

"From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."

(3) In public schools, students who object to the inclusion of those two words are asked to leave the classroom while the pledge is recited ... i.e. they are entirely excluded from this patriotic exercise.

The first two passively imply that non-believers aren't patriots. The third actively implies such. If a child does not profess his/her belief, he/she is not welcome to participate in this patriotic exercise.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Brad 48 out of 50 ain't bad.

Mr. Anonymous, the role of the constitution then comes into play---the federal government was established, but a "nation" is more than just its central government.

Further, we must then look past the letter of the law to custom and practice, which is also a component of the whole picture.

For example, in the early days after the Founding, federal government buildings were used for religious services, which even Thomas Jefferson attended!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Re Jefferson & Church, I remember Jim Hutson quoting Joseph Priestley's aphorism -- thinking with the wise worshipping with the vulgar. I didn't put it in quotes because I am paraphrasing it from memory.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Absolutely. But the vulgar are Americans too...

Brad Hart said...

Tom, it wasn't me that made the comment. You mentioned my name but it was actually Mr. in Spokane.

But thanks for the plug! =)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oooops. Sorry, Mark.

But you can keep the plug anyway, Brad. I'm sure I owed you at least one.

Jakeman said...

The Constitution certainly is "godless" in that it does not ever refer in any way to a (G)god, or submit the republic to any ecclesiastical or religious authority, but the document certainly is godly, in that it is constructed in accordance to, and in all context with Christian society and ideals.

Also, it certainly is true that a very great number of the founding fathers were adherent to various different unorthodox variants on the traditional Christian themes (e.g. Deism), but therewas also an overwhelming number of very orthodox Christians in the number, and even those who were deists and even naturalists had so much of Christian culture engrained in their minds and hearts that they could not help their policies and philosophies from being molded by Christianity.

bpabbott said...

Jakeman, I always cringe when I see the term "Godless". John Adams had this to say ...

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
-- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88),

I think his intent was that reason was responsible for our Nations' founding. I do not think he believed such (i.e. reason) was incongruent with God, or that he thought the Constitution to be Godless.

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