There is a movement gathering momentum in America to take the traditional concept of God out of our national life. If this movement succeeds, "In God We Trust" will be taken from our coins, the Bible will be removed from our courtrooms, future Presidents will be sworn into office with their hand on a copy of the Constitution instead of the Bible, and chaplains will be removed from the Armed Forces.
The issue of prayers in public schools is now before the Supreme Court and, if the Court decrees negatively, another victory will be gained by those forces which conspire to remove faith in God from the public conscience.
Those who are trying to remove God from our culture are rewriting history and distorting the truth. But those who advocate drastic change in our traditional faith are only a tiny minority. Most Americans not only believe in God themselves but want their leaders to have faith in God.
Guizot, the French historian, once asked James Russell Lowell, "How long do you think that the American republic will endure?" Lowell replied, "So long as the ideas of its founding fathers continue to be dominant."
It would be impossible to understand the system upon which this nation was founded without understanding the religious faith, fervor and zeal of those early Americans. It is no accident that the President of the United States takes his oath upon the Bible; it is no fluke of history that "In God We Trust" appears upon our coins and paper money. The motto was first used in 1864, at the order of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, who asked that a phrase be found that would indicate the direction of God in the affairs of American life.
It is true that our forefathers meant this nation to be free from religious domination. The men who built American were primarily victims of oppression. They felt that the terrors of the wilderness were as nothing to that of government oppression of religious faith.
But the founding fathers, in their determination to have freedom "of" religion, never meant to have freedom "from" religion. Separation of church and state in no way implies separation of religion and state affairs. They are spiritually inseparable.
These ideals were written into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and into the constitutions of the several states. The Preamble of our national Constitution speaks of "the blessings of liberty." The men at Philadelphia could never written that document if they had not had faith in God.
"I have lived a long time", Franklin told the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, "and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that except the Lord build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed no better in this political building than the builders of Babel."
The tremendous prosperity, power and blessing which America has enjoyed through the years came because we as a nation have honored God. It is, I believe, a direct fulfillment of the promise, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."
Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War, "I have so many evidences of God's direction that I cannot doubt His power comes from above." This was the faith of our fathers. The Great Seal of the United States is our complete acknowledgment that we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Our national emblems, testify to the fact that we are a people "under God." A Bible-reading shepherd in the desert of Mesopotamia who had never heard of the United States would say on seeing our national emblems, "Surely these are God's people."
American democracy rests on the belief in the reality of God and His respect for the individual. Ours is a freedom under law, but it is also a freedom that will evaporate if the religious foundations upon which it has been built are taken away. I'm not sure that atheists and agnostics would be quite so zealous to preserve the Bill of Rights or the writ of habeas corpus or the two-party system or the right to trial by jury or the legal innocence of a man before he is proved guilty.
A dictator convinced that destiny lies in his own hands is bound to be proud, ruthless and ultimately destructive. If a political leader fears God and believes that God is in control of the universe, that certain moral laws are operating, then his faith will be reflected in this conduct. Our beliefs make us what we are. This faith in God is the source of our liberty.