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Friday, July 6, 2007

Is the Constitution a Godless Document?

By James J. Goswick on July 6, 2007

Is it fair to say because the Constitution doesn't mention God, it is a secular document? A cursory examination of the Constitution shows God is not in the Constitution because the founding fathers left the issue to the states.

Thomas Jefferson makes this clear:

"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government."
Thomas Jefferson Second Inaugural Address, 1805, Annals of the Congress of the United StatesA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897 (Published by Authority of Congress, 1899), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805.

"Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General [federal] Government. It must then rest with the States. "
Thomas Jefferson (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1852, Eighth Congress, Second Session, p. 78, March 4, 1805; see also James D. Richardson,
Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, pp. 103-104, to the Rev. Samuel Miller on January 23, 1808.

The Constitution is only Godless because it defers the authority to the states or individuals. Because of the lack of mention of the God of the bible, critics attack it without understanding its context has nothing to do whatsoever with religion. The first amendment is quite clear:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

The context is the Federal Government, as the Congress refers only to the Federal Govt.
Critics also attack Article VI, the religious test ban, again showing their misunderstanding of the correct context. Article VI only referred to qualifications for Federal officeholders, while the states were free to establish any religion they wished. Although the states established no particular denomination of Christianity, the religion of Jesus Christ was the preferred religion as the state constitutions proclaim:

Constitution of the State of North Carolina (1776), stated:

There shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State in preference to any other.

Article XXXII That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.
(until 1876)

Constitution of the State of Maryland (August 14, 1776), stated:

Article XXXV That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention, or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion.”

That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God is such a manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty;
wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested… on account of his religious practice; unless, under the color [pretense] of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality… yet the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax, for the support of the Christian religion.
(until 1851)

Critics, like professors Kramnick and Moore, fail to see Article I, sec. 2 of the Constitution defers qualifications for representatives to state rules, putting themselves in a pickle since some Constitution signers favored the Article VI ban and formed religious tests for their states. Clearly the critics are wrong or believe Constitution signer, and co-author of Tennessee's Constitution William Blount has amnesia. Blount clearly believed Article VI applied only to Federal officeholders, as well as a belief in God was not a religious test:

Tennessee Constitution of 1796

II. No person who denies the being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.
IV. That no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.

The Torcaso court that struck down belief in God to hold office, basically struck down the requirement that public officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Taking an oath presupposed a belief in God. So much for the Godless Constitution belief.

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