Constitutional Principles Over Cultural Preferences

At its annual Correspondent of the Year recognition event, The Richmond Times Dispatch honored Ira Rosenfeld on as 2014 Correspondent of the Year.  I applaud Mr. Rosenfeld for his achievement. A full appreciation for the cogent presentation of his views (Godless Constitution is an incredible document) however, does not alter disagreement, at least in part, with the premise upon which that reasoning is based.

Mr. Rosenfeld makes the case for religious separatism from government on the basis of absence of religious terminology in the body of the U.S. Constitution. While his observation is correct, his dismissive reference to the Bill of Rights erroneously implies that the amendments are not part of the Constitution, but Article V specifically states that amendments are “valid for all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution.” While semantically accurate, Mr. Rosenfeld’s conclusion that the Constitution is secular is therefore inaccurate.

Additionally, he fails to realize that while no spiritual language is specific to the Body of Constitutional articles, the founding of the American Republic was decidedly spiritual to those who framed it. The Constitution has no religious language (as Rosenfeld notes) because it does not address a control of people but of government. The convention that framed the document had assembled originally to modify the Articles of Confederation which allowed for almost no centralized government structure. John Adams and a few others who arrived early (actually on time) to Philadelphia already realized that the Articles were not going to create a strong enough union to repel attacks by our enemies or quell rebellion among the states themselves. These leaders began immediately to lobby for a completely new structure under a Federal Constitution.

While the Constitution stands alone as addressing the limitations of government, and the Bill of Rights (without which promise ratification by the states would have been impossible) elucidates individual liberties, the entirety of the Constitutional framework rests on principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. To divorce the Constitution from its principled foundation is comparable to saying it is the drive shaft that moves the car, not the engine. The components are a system to be taken together, not two separate entities operating independently.

The Constitution does not delineate religious influence, simply because the founders had already stated that the basic ideas of liberty of action and conscience were “self-evident” truths bestowed as a matter of our existence, not subject to any earthly authority. They did not address God in the Constitution because in their frame of reference, no reasonable person would ever attempt to govern or do any other meaningful work without recognizing His authority and asking for His guidance. That philosophy is more than borne out in writings, speeches, government decrees, and a myriad of actions by virtually every leader involved in drafting the Constitution or governing under its auspices.

Having been blessed to study history myself, I thoroughly endorse Mr. Rosenfeld’s admonition for others to do the same. The foundation of the American Republic rests upon the principles of its founders, not the preferences of modern culture.

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