Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Godless Constitution (Theocracy Vs. States' Rights)

A reminder, in honor of Blog Against Theocracy '08.

What the Religious Right doesn't tell people, and what, tragically, many Amer­icans apparently don't know, is that when it comes to determining what the laws of the United States mean, the only document that matters is the Consti­tution. The Constitution, a completely secular document, contains no references to God, Jesus or Christianity. It says absolutely nothing about the United States being officially Christian. The Religious Right's constant appeals to documents like the Declaration of Independence, which contains a deistic reference to "the Creator," cloud the issue and make some people believe their rights spring from these other documents.
Why should Utah conservatives and liberals alike be concerned about theocracy? From Theocracy Watch:

REBELLION OF THE STATES, New York Times, January 16, 2005:

The mandates... emanating from Washington are coming not from big-government Democrats but conservative Republicans. And thanks to the party's successes in recent years, more of the state and local officials who are complaining about those actions are Republicans, too.


  1. You also often hear people argue for codification of the 10 commandments, or that the Constitution is based upon the 10 commandments....

    Of course only 20% of the 10 Commandments is also found in the Constitution, and that is not a direct influence.

    And like I always say, having government acknowledge God is great... that is until it's a God other than yours thats being acknowledged.

  2. "when it comes to determining what the laws of the United States mean, the only document that matters is the Consti­tution. The Constitution, a completely secular document, contains no references to God, Jesus or Christianity."

    This statement shows a real lack of understanding of the law and ignores countless documents and writings of the founders, including the Federalist Papers, which were used to argue for the Constitution. The words in the Constitution are NEVER considered in isolation.

    Here are just a few comments from Justice Blackstone (a renowned British Justice who had profound influence on judicial interpretation in England and America) and Justice Joseph Story (whose 'Commentaries on the Constitution' is considered the fundamental work on the US Constitution, from which I have pulled these quotes) that show how incomplete and off track the above assertion is.

    "The first and fundamental rule in interpretation of all instruments [in this case the US Constitution] is, to construe them according to the sense of the terms, and the intention of the parties." This means I have to look at a lot more than what is written on the page. I need to look at context, subject-matter, as well as the reason and spirit of the law. While interpretation begins with and ends with the Constitution, failure to take into account other instruments, like the Declaration of Indepence, the Federalist Papers, or the intent of the founders and framers of the document is to ignore a fundamental element of the due diligence that must be applied in any case.

    "No person can fail to remark the gradual deflections in the meaning of words from one age to another; and so constatantly is this process going on, that the daily language of life in one generation sometimes requires the aid of a glossary in another." Words change, meanings change and so once again other documents may be needed to help interpret and understand what original intent might have been.

    Lastly, "Constitutions of government are not to be framed upon a calculation of exisiting exigencies; but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs." You can't plan for everything a nation may face in a constitution. This is one of the reasons we have an amendment process, but it is also one of the reasons we have a judiciary.

  3. ok lyall, but back to the argument at hand, if you need to interpret the constitution within context to get a full understanding of its impact, do you support the religious right in their statement that the United States is a Christian nation based on the Federalist Papers, or the Declaration of Independence?

    By arguing against one line you've missed the point that the Theocracy Watch is making.

  4. Craig,

    The founders writings (including the Federalist Papers, Declaration, etc.) are replete with references to a "moral" order; to God-given liberties, and of course it was Washington that added "So help me God," to the end of the presidential oath. English common law, upon which parts of the US Constitution is based, is deeply rooted in Judeao-Christian moral law, which in turn is based on the 10 Commandments.

    So is america a country only for Christians. No, in fact creating such a closed society is anti-christian. But I do believe, based on what I have studied and read about the roots of English common law and philosophies/writings of the founders in addition to what my faith has said about the divine origins of the US Constitution that God and our relationship with respect to him was highly instrumental in the framing of this country.

    hope i answered your question.

  5. Lyall,

    You are skirting the original point drawn in the original post, which is, simply put, there is absolutely no reference in our Constitution to God or a Deity.

    And our laws are determined by that Constitution.

    All due respect to English Common Law, Federalist Papers, and the 10 Commandments, they are irrelevant to the nature of my post, which is, again that our Constitution is undeniably secular.

  6. of the subject of god but on the constituion
    Article. II.
    Section. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

    sence it says he and his does that mean we can kick hillary out based on the constitution

  7. jason
    with the discusion on the constitution i had to read it again, in so doing coming accross this
    Article. VI.
    All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

    and are discusion on Bear sturns and this hole morgage crisis i think it should be pointed out that are fouders found it so important to pay theres and the countrys debts back that they would put it into the constitution and here we are letting people get out of there debts and getting out of are own as a nation, i would also ask is chapter 11 unconstitutional, or argue it the other way sence the united states fills that paying the debt back is so important that the nation is responsible for the debts inquired by the citizens i dont know what do you think

  8. After reading over the constitution again and thinking about all of your coments, honestly i was suprised that there isnt more of religious talk and referial to god, and i would argue that if you look at the men who wrote it and the history of it and the times it was writen in it would have to be left out on purpose i think the decleration of independence and the articals of confederation everything would show and knowledge of the men and the time would show that these men used God in there everyday talk and knew and felt they were being directed by a supreme being and so i would argue that God made shure that there was no force of him in the constitution these men were leaveing religious intolerance and were forming a nation that would allow God to work in Gods way
    i would ask would you be ok with are next president adding to his oth Alla akbar or so help me Alla i am a registered Constitution Party person and even being the theocon i gess i am i would say that god was left out of the constitution on purpose and go as far to say that the men writeing it were inspired by God to leave him out for the purpose that all may worship him in this country or not worship him as they chose

  9. Hey Plowking! Thanks for adding your thoughts to this.

    When are you going to get your own blog going?

  10. Jason, actually most of our civil rights laws that extend from the "slave amendments," the 13th and 14th amendments, especially our "due process" clauses, come from the Declaration of Independence's "life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness," through the legal doctrine of substantive due process.

    You will remember that our beloved Constitution was voiceless about slavery and several other civil rights that we now hold dear. These reforms came to be because of religious folks who demanded substantive change that flowed from the Declaration and its legal interpretation through substantive due process.

    BTW, George Sutherland was a substantive due process guy...a real conservative.

    So, anyway, to your, the Constitution is not the only, or even main, source of the fundamental liberties we love.

  11. Paul,

    Historical assumptions on the driving force behind civil-rights aside, is it fair to assume your comment is a round-about means of agreeing with the declaration in this post that the Constitution is, indeed, absent mention of God and religion, yet stands as the backbone of our country?

    It was unclear in your comment.