Last updated on: 5/13/2009 12:10:00 PM PST
Was the US Founded "under God"?
In Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice Berger, held:
"Certain ceremonial references to God and religion in our Nation are the inevitable consequence of the religious history that gave birth to our founding principles of liberty."
Mar. 5, 1984 - Lynch v. Donnelly (85 KB)
Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President, in his Feb. 3, 1983 Proclamation 5018, which declared 1983 as "The Year of the Bible," stated:
"The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Fathers' abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual, rights which they found implicit in the Bible's teachings of the inherent worth and dignity of each individual. This same sense of man patterned the convictions of those who framed the English system of law inherited by our own Nation, as well as the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution."
Feb. 3, 1983 - Ronald W. Reagan
Proclamation 5018 (5 KB)
Public Law 97-280, passed on Oct. 4, 1982, authorized and requested the President to proclaim 1983 as the "Year of the Bible." The law stated:
"Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;
Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;
Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States;
Whereas many of our great national leaders -- among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln and Wilson -- paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country's development, as the words of President Jackson that the Bible is 'the rock on which our Republic rests.'"
Oct. 4, 1982 - Public Law 97-280 (8 KB)
Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in his 2002 book On Two Wings:
"The very form of the Declaration was that of a traditional American prayer... In that document, Thomas Jefferson at least twice referred to God in Hebrew terms, and before assenting to it, the Congress added two more Hebrew names... Lawgiver (as in 'Laws of Nature and Nature's God'); Creator ('endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights'); Judge ('appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions'); and Providence ('with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Provident').
In all moments of imminent danger, as in the first Act of the First Continental Congress, the founding generation turned to prayer. In a kind of covenant, they pledged to God that the people of America would pursue His will as best they could, confident that He willed for them and for all men the exercise of natural liberty."
2002 - Michael Novak
John Adams, Second President of the United States, wrote in his 1788 "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" that:
"Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind...
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this even an era in their history.
Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
1788 - John Adams
Jon Butler, PhD, former Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Yale University, stated in a Jan. 27, 2004 interview on Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill that:
"Those who were very active in the ratification of the Constitution would, in fact, have said, 'no we shouldn't have this [under God].'"
Jan. 27, 2004 - John Butler, PhD
Ed Buckner, PhD, Southern Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, wrote in a July 18, 2006 e-mail to ProCon.org:
"The U.S. was not founded 'under God.' In fact the founders went out of their way to make it clear that they believed the national government should be neutral regarding religion, explicitly to protect religious liberty for all. They wrote and adopted a godless constitution, invoking the authority of 'We the People' rather than that of any god. The Constitution was in fact the first significant governing charter in the history of mankind that did not invoke any gods."
July 18, 2006 - Ed Buckner, PhD
Bill Morgan, former Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Milledgeville, Georgia, noted in his Nov. 11, 1999 address at the First Amendment Symposium at Georgia College and State University that:
"The United States was NOT founded as a Christian country! To say that the United States was founded as a Christian country is to confuse the founding of the United States as a political state with the earlier settlement of North America by colonists.
It is true that many of the first Europeans to arrive on these shores were religious dissenters who sought freedom to worship. Many of these early colonists believed that they were establishing a Christian utopia. Most of the early colonies were theocracies where only those who worshipped according to state orthodoxy were welcomed...
It is true that during the Constitutional Convention a minority favored some recognition of Christianity in the Constitution. Those views were rejected, and the Constitution was adopted as a completely secular document."
Nov. 11, 1999 - Bill Morgan