Most governmental acknowledgements of religion are in the form of symbols, like the representation of Moses in the Supreme Court Chamber, or the motto, “In God We Trust,” authorized to be printed on all the currency of the United States. To suggest that this symbol means that the U.S. Treasury Department promotes trust in God is to suggest something that is farfetched.
Some who question the majority opinion in Marsh v. Chambers say that these practices were authorized by legislators who were influenced by the passion of the moment, and gave into pressure of constituencies, and they did not act in ways that pass “sober, Constitutional judgment.”
However, I would suggest that those Congressmen knew the difference between an acknowledgment and an establishment, and they know that a failure to acknowledge the belief in a God would be the promotion of atheistic beliefs.
Weighing in the full record of history helps to see the mental gymnastics of those who are proponents of an atheistic state religion. So called governmental neutrality – by definition – demands that the state not promote one set of beliefs over another, and acknowledge the fact that some citizens do believe in a divine being while others do not.
This healthy perspective realizes as Justice Clark said,
The place of religion in our society is an exalted one.
And as Justice Hugo Black said in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education, the state should not be the adversary of anyone’s beliefs – in god, or in no god.
The 84th Illinois General Assembly did not want an established state religion, just as their famous predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, did not. Neither was afraid of acknowledging that those who founded this great nation had a profound faith in God.
The federal government spent millions of dollars to build a monument to the memory of President Lincoln, and had engraved on its wall the entire Address at the Dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, in which Lincoln immortalized the words, “this nation under God.”
It’s no small irony that the members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation owe their freedom to the early religious men and women of this country.
George Washington, at the request of the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of –
– public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.
I’ll close with a quote that was written in the dissenting opinion in Wallace v. Jaffree, the case in which an Alabama moment of silent meditation was struck down:
History must judge whether it was the Father of his country in 1789, or a majority of the Court today which has strayed from the meaning of the Establishment Clause.