God is Not in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights

Neither God or Jesus are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Nor are they mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Satan also doesn’t show up. Colin McGinn was on Bill Moyers special series on Faith and Reason on PBS last night and mentioned that God is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

So I checked this morning and could not find God or Jesus or any of his disciples, or for that matter Satan, in the U.S. Constitution. I guess I just never looked that closely before because to hear all the debate from the right wing evangelicals and Bush conservatives I could have sworn it had to be there somewhere or what was all the fanatical noise about – like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

It’s like if you don’t say “under God” when you say the Pledge of Allegiance you willl never be able to run for public office or if in public office you shall be voted out. There are probably people who think you shouldn’t even be allowed to vote, unless you believe in God.

The current President Bush’s Father, George G.W. Bush seemed to believe that, when he told an atheist that,
“No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

Curiously Article VI Section (3) of the U.S. Constitution is the only reference to religion in the original Constitution and it says “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution: but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or Public Trust under the United States.

The framers of the Constitution were saying said that there shall be no test as to whether one shall be a Catholic, or a Protestant or other member of a religious community to hold office.

But wait a minute. There is also the test of public opinion. What does the Pledge of Allegiance say?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Um, isn’t this some kind of religious test? Seems to me my very own Congressman, Jim McDermott was skewered for not saying “under God” in the past. It seems to me that some people are and have made this a religious test of sorts and that they are out of step with the U.S. Constitution. Evangelicals want people to profess support for a statement which singles out a specific belief system.

More clearly, there’s the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. It says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: …”

By singling out” under God,” as distinct from eliminating this phrase and going back to the previous version before 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance is a statement affirming a specific religious belief that a Christian God exists, as distinct from other religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court has previously said that no one shall be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but public pressure and ostracism awaits anyone you doesn’t. It is in fact a form of religious discrimination and bigotry.

All this pressure to recite the words, under God, in the Pledge of Allegiance are contrary to what America should represent at it’s best. It is contrary to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is a sign that we still have to go a lot further to go eliminate religious intolerance.

Interestingly enough but not suprisingly, there have been attempts to add God and Jesus to the US constitution. Christian attempts to amend the US Constitution occurred in 1864, 1874, 1896 and 1911.

The original version of these amendments stated “We, the people of the United States recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Wisely Congress never passed this or similar amendments . But that doesn’t mean God didn’t creep in in other ways. For example, there is our current national moto which is printed on our money.

Wikipedia notes that “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States of America. It was so designated by an act of Congress in 1956 and officially supersedes “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One) according to United States Code, Title 36, Section 302. President Eisenhower signed the resolution into law on 30 July 1956.[1

4 responses to “God is Not in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights

  1. citizenship: a glass half full

    The Pledge itself originated as part of a commercial flag marketing campaign in the late 19th century. That it was institutionalized by Congress is therefore pathetic.

    I did observe one very progressive and powerful use of the Pledge in 2004. Both houses of the MA legislature were together in a Constitutional Convention to debate the approval of an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. They opened the proceedings with, of course, the Pledge. It was respectfully if quietly recited until the final words ‘for all’, which boomed from the throats of gay semi-citizens and supporters in attendance. By their reaction, it was apparent that until then most legislators had forgotten that there were citizens in the gallery. 🙂

  2. N in Seattle

    Some, of course, will talk of “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. But that phrase doesn’t directly address the concept of (Christian) God. More significantly, the Declaration of Independence — for all its eloquence and importance in our history — is in no way a founding document of the government of the United States of America.

  3. Majority Rules would be a Democracy. The USA is not a Democracy it is a Republic. Elected officials vote on the well being of the masses. Democracy is also not mentioned in the Constitution of the US. Republic is mentioned often. The US Government was created to protect the rights of the citizens. The States all have their own constitutions and Bill of Rights. They all are supposed to be sovereign states. By the way, All of the state’s documents, best I can remember, mention God or Creator. The people who wrote the document you folks make such vague reference to were written by Christians. The very buildings of our Capital are covered with reference to God. This nation was founded as a Christian nation, tolerant of others, that is all. What it is today would certainly be up for discussion, but what was intended certainly is not.

  4. (from Jann & Gene)

    The US Constitution may have been written by a group of mostly Christian men, but in no way does that mean they intended this nation to be a Christian nation. A few facts that negate this simplistic assumption of history:

    1)Despite being mostly Christian, our Founding Fathers and the government they created specifically avoided and banned the idea that our nation is identified by Christianity. The word “God” on many of our historic buildings in DC reflect at most that our Founding Fathers wanted to recognize a general sense of God- if their intent was to promote this nation specifically as a tolerant Christian nation, “Christ” or “Jesus” should appear in at least some of our documents or buildings. (Since Jesus Christ is the central character of Christianity that sets it apart from other godly religions.)
    The Founding Fathers, the nation at the time, and the nation now is one that has a majority of Christians. It is quite another thing (and erroneous) to say that it is a Christian nation.

    2)A few of our most revered Founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison (father of the constitution), John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, while believing in the god of the New Testament, cared little for the authority of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, or the authoritarian dogma of evangelical Christianity. Personally, Adams proclaimed his Unitarianism (which reveres Jesus, but not as one with God) as the true Christianity while fervently maintaining separation of church and state. Jefferson most famously cut out all supernatural aspects of the bible, parts of which he thought “merely the ravings of a maniac”, into what became known as “The Jefferson Bible”, focusing only on the excellent moral teachings of Jesus.

    3) The brief, lesser known Treaty of Tripoli from 1797 (signed by then President John Adams and ratified unanimously by the mostly protestant Christian congress) declares that “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” While there is controversy on versions of the treaty used with the foreign partners, there is no doubt that the version ratified by congress and signed by John Adams, nearly the same men who ratified the constitution several years earlier, contained this specific statement.

    4)Most of our first great presidents (Including Washington and Lincoln) did not subscribe to anything close to traditional Christianity and all strongly opposed the idea that America was intended as a Christian nation:

    This nation was purposefully crafted to be without a specific religious affiliation, official or otherwise, thereby tolerant of all religions whose citizens abided Ameria’s laws. That it was done so by mostly Christian men is what makes it all the more respectful and convincing of that fact.