A fellow blogger who goes by the handle of Capt. Fogg inspired what began as a comment on his post, Masters of Mendacity, but grew into a post of my own. The Captain's post adroitly dissects the fallacies at the heart of the ongoing proclamations by Palin, O'Donnell, and Beck that feed the clamor from the Tea Party of, "We want our country back." The basic reasoning appears to follow the lines of, "America is a Christian nation, founded by God or at the very least endorsed by God and it (America) must be saved from liberals." One of Palin's latest proclamations is that that the Constitution tells us that our "Unalienable rights" come from God. Christine O'Donnell has declared that the Constitution isn't merely a legal document but a covenant based on divine principles. Glenn Beck appears to have anointed the Constitution to be his Gospel, and himself as the Second Coming.
They aren't just liars, they are flat out wrong. There is no mention of God or unalienable rights in the Constitution; perhaps Palin, et.al. have confused the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence. That document states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
What fascinates me about the language regarding unalienable rights is that Jefferson's concerns weren't about worshipping a particular God but about declaring that there were rights inherent to being human that could not be usurped and that the purpose of government was to protect those rights as opposed to curtailing them or taking them away. I think that his use of the term Creator reflected the broader concept that such rights were natural rights, innate rights that were not given but existed without being conferred or bestowed by any government.
Beck, Palin etc. have chosen to harp on this language as proof that this is a Christian nation. Based on the varied writings of Jefferson, Madison and others, I'm of the opinon that the furtherest thing from their intent was founding a Christian nation. I think that a modern debate on this matter fails to understand the worldview of the founders. These men were readers of Locke, Rousseau,Hobbes, and Aristotle. They struggled with the philosophical concepts of who are we and what is our purpose, not some fight over whose God was better. They actually thought about the purpose of government and concluded that it was to serve the people and that the power of the government came from the consent given by the governed.
It was a revolutionary idea, Certainly the English Monarchy didn't recognize its power as coming from the people but viewed its power as God given and superior to the will of the people. The Declaration took that philosophy on with its bold proclamation about unalienable rights endowed by the Creator. It was an assertion against the then ruling idea that the government decided which rights to grant the people and which ones to deny them. It wasn't a proclamation supporting Christianity but a declaration against tyranny.
As for attributing such language to the Constitution, it just raffirms my belief that most of the people shouting about the Constitution as being a covenant based on divine principles have never read the document with even a modicum of comprehension. The Constitution is a secular document that establishes the practices and laws governing the operation of the government. The Preamble states the purpose of the Constitution clearly and succinctly: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (There are many sites on the Net with info on the Preamble and the rest of the Constitution. I cited to Wikipedia here because it was the best of about a dozen sites that I checked. Up to date, and fully documented.)
Citing the United States Constitution as a religious text makes about as much sense as declaring that my telephone book contains the secrets of the universe.