Apr 13, 2010
Federalist Society: Law and Religion Panel Discussion
by Kelly Marvel
In a speech to military members in 1978, President John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
This statement has been debated back and forth between worldviews since Adams made it, arguing whether the United States was founded on a Christian background. Adams’ words were the focus of a panel discussion and lecture sponsored by the Federalist Society at the Liberty University School of Law on Friday.
Dr. Roger Schultz, dean of Liberty University School of Arts and Sciences, and Craig Stern, professor at Regent University School of Law, spoke to law students, local lawyers and professors about Adams’ words and the importance of religion in the founding of the United States.
Stern said the founders knew that if they wanted to build a strong government, they needed to have a Christian worldview while drafting the Constitution. President George Washington believed that government could not stand without morals and religion.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” Stern said, quoting Washington’s farewell speech of 1796.
Schultz cemented the point of Adams’ quote by giving his own lecture on the importance of religion in the founding days of the United States. He began with a story about a prayer breakfast in 1954, where many dignitaries spoke including former chief justice Earl Warren. Schultz quoted a passage from Warren’s speech that summed up the main point of the panel discussion.
“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the good book and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the charter of Virginia or the charter of Massachusetts Bay or the fundamental orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present-a Christian land governed by Christian principles,” Schultz said quoting Warren.
Schultz referenced early documents in American history that had heavy Christian influence, including the Bill of Rights, which Warren said, “came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it.”
At the end of the lecture, both speakers and School of Law Professor Rodney Chrisman took questions from the audience. Each panelist concluded that the United States could not have had its strong beginnings as a nation without Christian morals and principles and that the Constitution was written with the assumption that the citizens of the United States had Christian morals.
In today’s society, however, Stern said that the majority of Americans do not have Christian morals and, therefore, the government does not reflect Christianity either.
“It seems that without moral foundations, without morality, without a Christian foundation, without notions of self-government (and) without notions of the understandings of civil government, we are bound to misuse the Constitution,” Stern said. “It seems the Constitution is fully inadequate for us as a people falling short.”
The Federalist Society was founded on the principles that the state should exist to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to the Constitution and that it is the duty of the judiciary to define and interpret. These principles were key in the discussion of law and religion. President of the chapter at Liberty’s School of Law Jason Heinen thought that having the panel discussion was key in understanding the current status of America and that the church should address this more often.
“I think it’s good for Christians to look at how the founders viewed the role of religion in the state and its something I don’t think the church especially addresses today that we should address,” Heinen said. “Religion does play a key role in our society and a key role in preserving liberty.”
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