John Adams was right.
The central principle upon which our government is formed is that our rights come from God. We even have it written in our Declaration of Independence. It’s carved into our most respected monuments and memorials across the land.
Our belief in God, and knowing our rights come from Him, is was sets us apart from every other nation. It is the momentous basis on which all of our Founders agreed. In God We Trust.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion,” Adams wrote on Oct. 11, 1798. “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
One of the most memorable moments in my life was actually seeing the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution with my own eyes. The first time I stood in the solemn line to view them was in 1984. I walked out firmly realizing these documents are sacred to our freedoms and they have worked brilliantly. It is significant to note they come with a prerequisite – a belief that rights are unalienable because they come from God.
But our rights come responsibilities. If God is the source of our rights and the reason that government should hold them inviolate, then it follows that God is the source of our values as well. These two truths cannot be separated. They are sides of the same coin.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14
From the very beginning, American public documents have acknowledged and given tribute to God. The first Charter of Virginia in 1606 granted the king’s authority to launch a British colony in the New World. After naming the persons receiving the grant, the charter began:
We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God…”
Using similar language, the Pilgrims of Plymouth set forth the purpose of their government in the first few words of the Mayflower Compact:
In the NAME OF GOD, AMEN…Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country…
The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, looked to the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” and to the unalienable rights of men given “by their Creator” to justify the colonists break from Great Britain The signers of this historic document acknowledged their trust in God by appealing to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” and pledging to defend the Declaration “with a firm reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE.”
It was Jefferson who also drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786, a forerunner of the First Amendment, which prohibited government control of religion because:
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either.
Since its earliest days, the leaders of our republic have acknowledged God’s hand in America. In his first inaugural address, George Washington confessed dependence upon God and His providence in the affairs of the United States:
[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government…No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token on providential agency.
God Bless America. In God We Trust.