Faith in God: The Foundation of Our Freedoms

On September 17th, as we observe the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, it is important to remember that nearly all the nation's founders regarded belief in God as essential to safeguarding liberty and frequently said so, both in their private writings and the nation's founding documents. The Constitution, for example, recognizes Jesus as Lord. At its end the framers wrote: "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 Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth..."

The quotation also references the Declaration of Independence (signed eleven years and three months before). The Declaration speaks of "Nature's God," the "Creator" of all men who self-evidently endows them with certain unalienable rights (our nation's premise), the "Supreme Judge of the world," and "a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence."

The United States Code Annotated lists the "Organic (fundamental) Laws" of the United States as the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation, which governed the nation for nine years prior to the Constitution, speak of the "Great Governor of the World" and were signed "the ninth day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight, and in the Third Year of the independence of America."

The Northwest Ordinance, passed by the Confederation Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) earlier in 1787, states that: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Clearly, the public schools were to teach religion and morality - and they did.

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment makes clear that there are to be no restrictions imposed against people of any faith. Article VI prohibits any religious test being applied for holders of public offices. The founders believed that only a moral people - a nation of Godly people with common spiritual and social values - were capable of self-government and took these steps to secure participation in government and all other aspects of life by people of faith.

Our official national motto as adopted by Congress in 1956 is "In God We Trust." It appears on our money and in the fourth stanza of our national anthem, written in 1814, which reads almost like a prayer of praise for God and thanksgiving for our nation. Look it up.

Carved inside the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is this question from Thomas Jefferson, our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?" To whom else could we appeal over the head of any tyrant?

With the greater ethnic and religious diversity in our country today, the principles set forth in our founding documents are more important than ever. One of the great secrets of our success as a nation is our allegiance to the principles of liberty for all, especially the belief in its divine Source, rather than to advantages for those of our own ethnic, religious or other affiliations. It is especially important to emphasize that faith in God is not a threat to our freedoms that must be purged from public discourse, as the ignorant would have us believe. To the contrary, it is their foundation and chief instrument of their defense.