Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is the Constitution an Irreligious Document?

The main body of the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of religion other than stating there can be no religious for Federal office. This fact is used by some to support their point that the Founders intended to keep religion and government totally separate. The Library of Congress has some good background on this issue:

"When the Constitution was submitted to the American public, 'many pious people' complained that the document had slighted God, for it contained 'no recognition of his mercies to us . . . or even of his existence.' The Constitution was reticent about religion for two reasons: first, many delegates were committed federalists, who believed that the power to legislate on religion, if it existed at all, lay within the domain of the state, not the national, governments; second, the delegates believed that it would be a tactical mistake to introduce such a politically controversial issue as religion into the Constitution. The only 'religious clause' in the document--the proscription of religious tests as qualifications for federal office in Article Six--was intended to defuse controversy by disarming potential critics who might claim religious discrimination in eligibility for public office.

"That religion was not otherwise addressed in the Constitution did not make it an 'irreligious' document any more than the Articles of Confederation was an 'irreligious' document. The Constitution dealt with the church precisely as the Articles had, thereby maintaining, at the national level, the religious status quo. In neither document did the people yield any explicit power to act in the field of religion. But the absence of expressed powers did not prevent either the Continental-Confederation Congress or the Congress under the Constitution from sponsoring a program to support general, nonsectarian religion."

Read more on the website of The Library of Congress

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