Governor Pat McCrory signed a proclamation last Monday declaring September 17-23 to be "Constitution Week" in North Carolina. Gertrude S. Carraway, North Carolina’s only DAR President General, petitioned President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 to set aside September 17-23 annually to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week, since the Federal Convention adopted the final draft of the Constitution (as it was then) on September 17, 1787, beginning the ratification process.
Ironically, the Constitution seems to be best known for the amendments - additions made to it after the ratification process. Only after the Bill of Rights - the set of the first ten amendments - was added in 1789 did North Carolina ratify the Constitution. Technically Congress proposed 12 amendments, but only 10 were ratified. The 11th was adopted in 1992 as the 27th Amendment and is the most recent. The 12th (which was actually the first approved by Congress) deals with how the seats in the House of Representatives should be appointed. The Bill of Rights was not referred to much in the first 100 years or so after the Constitution was ratified, but has been the basis of many landmark cases before the Supreme Court in the 20th and 21st centuries.
While the Fifth Amendment - the right not to testify against one's self - has been very recently questioned, and the Second Amendment - the right to bear arms - seems to be under particular attack of late, the one that everyone seems to know best and think they are experts on is the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Generally, this is the first document people will turn to in order to prove a point about "separation of church and state". However, there is no such language in the Constitution of the United States. "See," they crow, "God isn't in the Constitution!" How wrong they are!
First, while the Federal Government could not establish a religion, the states most certainly did have that right. In Connecticut, the state religion was the Congregational Church. In Massachusetts, no specific religion was named, but all citizens had to be a member of and pay taxes to some church. In eight states, it is still illegal for an atheist to hold public office, though the Supreme Court has ruled that to be unenforceable. The prohibition on establishment was for the Federal Government, disallowing it to force a specific religion upon any state. It was not a law against religion or religious expression by government officials or in government owned properties.
Second, the wording was not meant to suggest that all religions have the same footing. Some want to suggest the framers wanted to give equal regard to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindis and so on. In fact, the wording suggested by George Mason, often called "the Father of the Bill of Rights", was thus: "All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others..." This suggests a preference toward the Christian religion, just not toward any one denomination over another. Many saw the problems in England caused by the break between the Anglican Church and the Catholic.
Third, consider another portion of the Constitution, in which one reads: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it...” (Article I, Section 7). Why should Sundays be excepted if there is no regard for religion within the Constitution? And if it is not for the Christian religion, why "Sunday"? For Jews it would be Saturday. For Muslims, it would be Friday. But it specifies Sunday - the day of worship for Christians.
A closing clause to the Constitution, immediately following Article VII, states this: "Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven..." The year of our Lord? It seems the framers of the Constitution used the Christian form of dating history, suggesting Jesus the Christ's place in history. Jews, Muslims, and Chinese have different ways of counting time ... but those ways were not chosen, nor did they refer to a religionless phrase such as "common era".
What about a look at what some of the founding fathers themselves said? Take note of John Adams' words: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." It is generally known that the framers themselves were all Christian, with the possible exception of one or two Deists. However, one founding father that is most often called a Deist is Thomas Jefferson, and he wrote the following: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever." These do not sound like the words of one who believed that God created the Universe and then stepped back and did no more. A Christian worldview was so ingrained in these men that what they wrote and decided necessarily mirrored this. It is impossible to study the history of the United States, especially during this period, and come away believing anything other than that these men asked God daily to guide them in their writing, in the very words they would use - God is everywhere within the United States Constitution; regardless of what is said by those who wish to remain blind.