Great background on the founding and gelling of American values in its beginning.
by Bill Connor
“Do not indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” — George Washington
“America is a God-fearing country, with all it implies. … American religious commitment is a primary – the primary source, I think – of American exceptionalism.” — English historian Paul Johnson
With the recent death of Christian icon Billy Graham, America had the opportunity to reflect on his life and the importance of his Christian evangelism on the nation. Younger people learned in Graham’s various crusades starting in the 1940s, and learn a bit of the Christian character of America up through recent times.
Unfortunately, there are great and increasing numbers attempting to drown out the work of Graham and move America toward a secular state future. This side sees a thoroughly secularized government. They will claim that the “wall of separation” between church and state prevents public reference to God.
They inevitably rely on their understanding of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states in part, “Government will make no law respecting the establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.” However, this side will not acknowledge the philosophical foundations of our constitutional system and why men like Graham were so important in making us the people we are. Let me explain.
The philosophical underpinnings of our laws and government are rooted in a general acknowledgement of of God and the Bible. As Justice William O. Douglas put it: “Our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” Political philosopher Samuel Huntington also wrote: “To deny God is to challenge the fundamental principle underlying American society.”
The first expression of American views on government is from the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed to the world “unalienable rights” from our “creator” and not a king. It proclaims that governments must respect those rights or lose authority: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That Governments are instituted among men to secure these rights.” Our founders gave God the prime place in the foundations of American law, government and human rights.
The Constitution is based on the God-centered political philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the United States was overwhelmingly Christian. Many of the early American colonists came from Europe to escape state enforcement of a particular denomination. Early settlers left England to escape the persecution of their puritan version of Christianity.
With that background, most devout Americans believed compulsion in religion would to turn people away from God. They did not want another Church of England and insisted on the prevention a national church/denomination. This explains the First Amendment’s establishment clause: “Government will make no law respecting the establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.”
Neither the Constitution, nor any other early American document, used the term “wall of separation between church and state.” This phrase was taken out of context from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Danbury Baptists, written in 1802. It was later used by the Supreme Court in 1947 to redefine the establishment clause for a secular public square.
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