THE INTENT OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS–REGARDING RELIGION
“The Constitution was not intended for a people that had no religion, or that needed any legislation on the subject from the proposed General or National Government; it was to be for a people already Christian, and whose existing laws, emanating from the most appropriate, or, to say the least, the most convenient sources, gave ample evidence of their being favourable to religion.
Their doing nothing positive on the subject seems, accordingly, to speak more loudly than if they had expressed themselves in the most solemn formulas on the existence of the Deity and the truth of Christianity. These were clearly assumed, being, as it were, so well known and fully acknowledged as to need no specification in an instrument of a general nature, and designed for general objects. The Bible does not begin with an argument to prove the existence of God, but assumes the fact, as one the truth of which it needs no attempt to establish.
This view is confirmed by what is to be found in the Constitution itself. From the reference to the Sabbath, in article I., section vii., it is manifest that the framers of it believed that they were drawing up a Constitution for a Christian people: a people who valued and cherished a day associated, if I may so speak, with so large a portion of Christianity. Regarding the subject in connexion with the circumstances that belong to it, I do not think that the government of the United States can justly be called either infidel or atheistically, on account of its Federal Constitution.
The authors of that Constitution never dreamed that they were to be regarded as treating Christianity with contempt, because they did not formally mention it as the law of the land, which it was already, much less that it should be excluded from the government. If the latter was intended, we see that their acts, from the very organization of the government, belied any such intention.
Should anyone, after all, regret that the Constitution does not contain something more explicit on the subject, I cannot but say that I participate in that regret. Sure I am that, had the excellent men who framed the Constitution foreseen the inferences that have been drawn from the omission, they would have recognised, in a proper formula, the existence of God, and the truth and the importance of the Christian religion.
A person was indicted at New-York, in 1811, for aspersing the character of Jesus Christ, and denying the legitimacy of his birth. He was tried, condemned, fined, and imprisoned. On that trial, Chief-justice Kent, still living, and believed to be second to none in the country in point of legal knowledge, expressed himself as follows:
“The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the Author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order.
Nothing could be more offensive to the virtuous part of the community, or more injurious to the tender morals of the young, than to declare such profanity lawful. It would go to confound all distinction between things sacred and profane.”
“No government,” he maintained, “among any of the polished nations of antiquity, and none of-the institutions of modern Europe (a single monitory case excepted), ever hazarded such a bold experiment upon the solidity of the public morals as to permit with impunity, and under the sanction of their tribunals, the general religion of the community to be openly insulted and defamed.”
“True,” he adds, “the Constitution has discarded religious establishments. It does not forbid judicial cognizance of those offences against religion and morality which have no reference to any such establishment, or to any particular form of government, but are punishable because they strike at the root of moral obligation, and weaken the security of the social ties. To construe it as breaking down the common law barriers against licentious, wanton, and impious attacks upon Christianity itself, would be an enormous perversion of its meaning.”
These just opinions were fully sustained by the decision pronounced in Pennsylvania, at the trial of a man indicted for blasphemy, not against God directly, but against the Bible; the design charged upon him being that of “contriving and intending to scandalize and bring into disrepute and vilify the Christian religion and the Scriptures of truth.”
On that occasion, the late Judge Duncan said, that “even if Christianity were not a part of the law of the land, it is the popular religion of the country; an insult to which would be indictable, as tending to disturb the public peace;” and added, “that no society can tolerate a willful and despiteful attempt to subvert its religion.”
The application of the common law, by the courts of Pennsylvania, to the protection of clergymen living in the discharge of their official duties, confirms all that has been said respecting the light in which Christianity is regarded by the state governments.
Further, every state has laws for the protection of all religious meetings from disturbance, and these are enforced when occasion requires. Indeed, I am not aware of any offence that is more promptly punished by the police than interfering with religious worship, whether held in a church, in a private house, or even in the forest.
All the states have laws for the regulation of church property, and of that devoted to religious uses. In some states, every religious body, immediately on being organized, is pronounced de facto incorporated; and in none, generally, is there any difficulty in procuring an act of incorporation, either for churches or benevolent societies.
No state allows the oath of an atheist to be received in a court of justice, and in one only, in so far as I am aware, is that of a disbeliever in a future state of rewards and punishments received as evidence. That state is New-York, where the law requires simply the belief in a state of rewards and punishments; in other words, if a man believes that there is a God who punishes men for evil actions, and rewards them for their good ones, whether in this world or in that which is to come, his oath will be received in a court of justice.
Of course, the man who believes neither in the existence of God, nor in any sort of divine punishment, cannot be sworn, nor his testimony be allowed, in a court in that state.”—Religion In America; By Robert Baird; 1844.
“SO HELP ME GOD”
- The Oath of Office for the President of the United States—ends with the words, “So Help Me God” (see video below)
- The Oath of Allegiance to the United States—ends with “So Help Me God.” This Oath must be taken by all those who wish to become citizens of the U.S. (see video below)
One Nation Under God
Congratulations To These New U.S. Citizens!!
A message to young Christians and the voters of America † How many Christians are there? † 7-7-2019: “Was America founded as a Christian or a secular nation?” † In God we Trust.
- America is a Christian Nation–led by Christians: “Of the new members, (the 116th Congress) fully 81% identify as Christians. While this is lower than the Christian share of incumbents, it is still higher than the share of U.S. adults who are Christian (71%) ◊ Christians make up large majorities in both chambers. In fact, Protestants alone form majorities in both the House (54%) and the Senate (60%) ◊ Republican members of Congress are more likely than Democratic members to identify as Protestants (70% vs. 41%) ◊ Among Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party in the general public, 82% of registered voters are Christians, compared with about 99% of Republicans in Congress.”–Pew Research Center; 1-3-2019.
- America, a Christian Nation Evidenced: “An oath,” says Webster, “is an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed. The appeal implies that the person imprecates his vengeance and renounces his favor, if the declaration is false.” An oath therefore is an act of religion; and as the God to whom appeal is made is the “only living and true God,” or the God of the Christian, it is an act of the Christian religion.”–S. M. Campbell, DD; 1870.
- From the first, they set out with the idea of making this community that happy people, whose God is the Lord, – a Christian nation, – what the world had never yet seen, but what all its experience concurred in testifying it must seem or it would never see the amount of prosperity man is capable of attaining on earth. A Christian people! Not merely a sober, industrious people, without religion, if such could be expected, but distinctively a Christian people.”–7/5/1840; M. I. Motte; Psalm 144:15 (Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord) ¹
“The verdict of history is unmistakable. Nations perish from causes that are within; No nation ever died from causes that lay outside its borders. Every nation has died as its faith died. The people that has lost its religion has lost its life; Nations are not destroyed; they commit suicide.”–Samuel Zane Batten; 1922.