Our Founding Principles – Faith
There are four fundamental principles underlying the American System of Government. They are found in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence and provide the foundation for the two successive governing documents the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” (1781 – 1789) and the Constitution of the United States (1789 – ?)
“…With a firm reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
A collective faith in the God of the Bible has been evident in American society since the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607. The secularists among us attempt to obscure this fact by erroneously using the First Amendment and the absence of any mention of God in the Constitution as proof that the Founders objected to every connection between politics and religion. However, the Declaration of Independence, our founding document, sometimes referred to as America’s Charter, is replete with references to God as “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, “divine Providence” and “the Supreme Judge of this world”.
The Declaration of Independence is America’s founding document, declaring the American people to be a free and independent nation and setting forth the principles and conditions justifying that Independence. Both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution are governing documents intended to govern a people with divergent faiths, cultures and religious practices. Neither of the two makes any references to God or Religion because that is not the proper business of government.
Most of the world’s nations throughout history have had an established state religion. Dissenting religions were, at best, only tolerated; at worst, they were persecuted, ostracized, taxed to support the established religion and otherwise oppressed by the authorities. At the time of the Constitution, the desire for religious liberty was widespread throughout the states. The absence of any reference to God or religion in the Constitution and the later addition of the First Amendment are evidence of a determination by the Founders to prevent the federal government from being able to establish a national religion or involving itself in the religious practices of its citizens.
The objective was to protect religion from the tyranny of government, not to protect government from the influence of religion. This fact is so obvious from historical and empirical evidence it should not even be a subject of debate. Expressions of faith were commonplace among the Founders, not only in their private correspondence, but in their public papers, utterances and governing acts as well.
John Adams, our second President stated, “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” George Washington declared in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens“. In another place, he stated, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”
Every Congress since 1789 has opened with prayer. Just underneath the clock on the wall behind the chair of the Speaker of the House is inscribed our national motto, “In God We Trust”. Congress sponsors regularly scheduled Bible Study and prayer meetings for its members. It has never been without an official Chaplain other than during the Civil War when Chaplain Services were provided by volunteers from the local clergy. Presidents routinely call for national prayer during times of crisis. Public and official expressions of our reliance on the blessing of God in our national affairs are everywhere in evidence.
In spite of widespread claims to the contrary, America is still a religious nation. It is also a Christian nation. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed more than 36,000 Americans age 18 years or older and compiled a report published by the Pew Research Center (2007). In it, 78.4% of all American adults identify themselves as Christian. Only 4.7% identify themselves as adhering to a religion other than Christian. 16.1% described themselves as unaffiliated. Of these, 1.6% identified as atheist, 2.4% as agnostic, 6.3% as secular unaffiliated and 5.8% as religious unaffiliated.