In April 1864, during the Civil War, in perhaps the darkest and most desperate period in our history, Congress passed a resolution directing that the United States Mint engrave the inscription “In God We Trust” on all coins minted as currency. It first appeared on the two-cent piece that same year, and has continued to appear on some form of US currency ever since. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed legislation making “In God We Trust” the official motto of the United States. Again, in November of 2011, Congress voted overwhelmingly to retain “In God We Trust” as our national motto.
Over the years there have been numerous challenges to the motto, lawsuits brought by secularists or atheists claiming that it violates the separation of church and state. However, there is no separation of church and state provision in the Constitution. The First Amendment simply states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and so far the courts have ruled that recognizing a deity does not constitute the establishment of an official state religion.
The separation of church and state provision that secularist invoke can be traced back to a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson, to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. In his letter, Jefferson re-affirms the First Amendment by stating that it creates a “wall of separation between the Church & State.” Interestingly enough, Jefferson ends his letter with a prayer for the protection and blessings of the common father, and creator of man.
Despite the court’s rulings and Congressional legislation, there are those who continue to try to use the separation of church and state argument to remove God from the public sector. These secularists either don’t fully understand the First Amendment, or are ignorant of their own country’s history and traditions. God and America are inseparable, because the United States is the first nation in modern history found on a divine truth.
The Declaration of Independence is the document that establishes the United States of America. It’s not a long document, just a single page with 1,338 words, most of which is a list of grievances against the King, justifying our separation from England. However, the document does a lot more than simply declare our independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence proclaims and establishes the ideology and philosophy of our Nation. On it, there are four references to God, none more famous or important than the first sentence of the second paragraph;
“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 are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Although we’re all familiar with these words, it’s impossible to truly appreciate their significance and impact, unless we understand the context in which they were written.
The Declaration of Independence was written in a world ruled by monarchs, emperors and princes who invoked the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings to justify their absolute power. An individual’s rights and freedoms were determined by their social class. Those with titles, the nobility and aristocracy enjoyed rights, and privileges not granted to the common man. The state or king was the source of a person’s rights, and he had the power to grant them or take them away.
Our Founding Fathers rejected this notion and established a new nation predicated on the proposition that all men are created equal, a nation in which a person’s rights and freedoms were no longer dependent upon the generosity of a king. They proclaimed that the rights and freedoms of all human beings are given to us by God; and no state, no government, no king or prince can take them from us. This truth is the essence of America. Jefferson’s words are an evolution in the thinking of mankind and the understanding of God’s truth. It is a divine revelation that changed human history by validating the dignity and worth of the individual, and cementing the autonomy of the common man.
The Founding Fathers affirmed this divine truth and expanded upon it with the Bill of Rights, which lists the unalienable rights with which we are all endowed. Although, there was a debate at the Constitutional Convention as to whether or not a Bill of Rights was necessary. Some felt that because the Constitution limited the power of the government, these rights were inherent or implied. Others remembering the oppression suffered at the hands of their former King, wanted these rights enumerated, or spelled out. The first ten amendments were added to the Constitution as a written guarantee insuring that the state could never infringe upon, or take away these God given rights.
The Fathers were fearful of a government that could become too powerful and abusive, and worked hard to draft a Constitution that limited the power it had over their lives. They did this because they understood human nature. They knew that the government, any government, was made up of people; fallible, frail and imperfect people who would eventually place their own self-interests above those of the people they were supposed to serve. They understood this because they studied history, and knew this is what governments and people did. They didn’t place their trust in the government, or even in the Constitution. They placed their trust in God, forever securing and preserving their liberty and freedom.
Today the Constitution is reeling under the pressure of a Federal Government that continues to increase its size, and expand its power and authority. The Bill of Rights is being assaulted by the very government that is supposed to protect it. There’s a growing concern that the United States is becoming a socialist secular state in which the government, and not the people wields the power. It is a legitimate fear because throughout history, liberty and freedom have always been both fragile and fleeting. However, “We the People” have a written guarantee, printed on the back of every dollar bill and engraved on every coin. As long as we hold true to the traditions of out founding by keeping our eye on the Government, and putting our trust in the common father, and creator of man, we’ll continue to enjoy the unalienable rights with which God has endowed us, and the Constitution guarantees.