Church and State
are Mutually Supportive
By Jeff Lukens
"The Bible is for the Government of the
People, by the People, and for the People." General Prologue to the
Wycliffe Bible in 1384.
Our country and its laws were established on the
fundamental belief that our morality emanates from God. While the
Constitution begins with the line, "We the people," it does not contain
any religious words. Some people cite this as evidence that America is a
secular country. Not so. America has always combined secular government
with a society based on religious values.
Many settlers in the 1600s came to what they
considered this new promised land seeking religious freedom. They
identified with the biblical Jewish Exodus from Egypt because they had
left Europe and its values as well. Ours is the only country to identify
with many Jewish beliefs, and is why our culture calls itself
"Judeo-Christian." These values include the importance of laws, fighting
for justice, and a belief in judgment by loving and forgiving God.
The Founders understood there is a divine order
that rises above the human order. By the 1770s, they sought our freedom
from the British Crown with reliance upon, what the Declaration of
Independence calls, "Nature's God," the "Creator," and "the Supreme
Judge of the World."
The First Amendment was never intended to
exclude all references to God from government institutions and public
debate. It simply says, "Congress shall not establish a religion or
prohibit the free exercise thereof." The word "establish" meant the
creation of a state church, as in the Church of England. It is nonsense
to say the founders intended the First Amendment to exclude all
religious expression in public places.
They knew that if we, as a people, ever lost our
biblical foundation, no amount of Constitutional protection would
preserve the republic. They recognized that without a Divine influence,
their struggle for freedom would be in vain.
John Adams wrote: "We have no government armed
with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by
morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and
The Founders also knew the government they were
establishing could last only if it was set in a moral framework that
only the church provides. They knew that without God there could be no
prompting of the conscience. Only those humble enough to admit they are
imperfect before God could bring to democracy the tolerance it requires
In the 1850s, abolitionist minister Theodore
Parker frequently used the phrase "of the people, by the people, and for
the people." His sermons and writings inspired many people, including
Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address used the phrase as well
while affirming the values of human equality espoused in the Bible and
in the Declaration of Independence. We now regard that speech as one of
the greatest in American history.
There are countless other examples throughout
our history of politicians evoking God's will or God's blessings in
their speeches. Every president has spoken of them. "The rights of man
come not from the generosity of the state but from the Hand of God,"
President Kennedy said in his inaugural address. Kennedy's remarks
offended no one then, why should anyone be offended by such remarks now?
As this election
year unfolds, the role of religion in society is sure to be discussed.
Candidates’ beliefs and endorsements by religious leaders will be
scrutinized, as John McCain and Barack Obama have discovered. Religious
beliefs may differ, but voters should keep in mind that church and
state, though separate, should be mutually supportive.
The rigidity of the law alone cannot bring order and unity to society.
Its foundation rests on the voluntary consent of its citizens. God's
authority and eternal laws are the prerequisites for human rights and
democracy. While our justice system often allows us to do as we please,
the conscience of believing citizens keeps them from committing, what
Tocqueville said, "is rash and unjust."
Of course, such talk is enough to make the
secularists shudder. But their attempts to suppress all reference of God
in public are contrary to what the Founders had in mind. While the
Founders did not intend that we have a religious government, it is an
exaggeration to declare they wanted all mention of God removed from
public speeches, buildings, currency, pledges -- or even from high
school commencements and football games -- as some today would have you
We mandate no belief in this country. We are
free to believe or not believe whatever they want. The ACLU and other
secularist organizations, however, do not have the right to destroy the
norms that have characterized our nation from the beginning. Any mention
of God annoys them, but the Constitution does not deny free speech
simply because someone is annoyed.
Longer term, the issue is whether our country
continues in its founding traditions as "one nation under God," or
becomes a secular one like those in Europe and Asia. If the public at
large has anything to say about it, our traditions of freedom of
religion and freedom of speech will remain a compatible part of the