- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Is the Constitution unconstitutional? As absurd as it might sound, the question is logical, if one adheres to some liberal interpretations of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A recent example occurred in California when a public school principal censored a teacher for using historical documents, like the Declaration of Independence, in class because of their references to God. The last line of the Constitution references “the Year of our Lord.” By the principal’s criteria, that’s not only a reference to a divine being in a historical document; it’s a reference to the Christian God, and therefore dangerous to impressionable grade schoolers.

Still, not even religion-phobes like Michael Newdow — who wanted to take out “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance — have questioned the constitutionality of the Constitution. They can’t because they use the Constitution’s Establishment Clause as their sword, rather than a shield. Nor have any serious people questioned the legality when nearly every president since George Washington ended his inaugural oath with “So help me, God,” despite the line’s absence in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. Yet what is questioned, aside from the Declaration, are President Bush’s references to God in many of his speeches.

In a Sunday report by The Washington Post, chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson offered a fascinating insight into the role religion should, and does, play in the administration, especially in regards to the current campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The important theological principle here … is to avoid identifying the purposes of an individual or a nation with the purposes of God,” Mr. Gerson said. One of Mr. Bush’s favorite speech lines is “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it’s the almighty God’s gift to all humanity.” According to Mr. Gerson, the line is original to the president, and stands as a repudiation of “American exceptionalism.”

A further point Mr. Gerson made also deserves acclaim. “I think the reality here is that scrubbing public discourse of religious ideas would remove one of the main sources of social justice in our history,” Mr. Gerson said. “Without an appeal to justice rooted in faith, there would be no abolition movement or civil rights movement or pro-life movement.” We would add that there would also be no foundation for much of Western civilization’s jurisprudence. When one strips moral judgment from the creation of government or law, the argument becomes subjective, and thus much more vulnerable to sophistic rebuttal.

There is indeed a line that presidents and public school teachers must walk when referring to religion, but it is not as fine as many would like to think. “God-talk,” as many on the left like to call it, animates and guides a nation’s existence, as it does individuals’. Within limits, it is perfectly appropriate in public discourse.

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