Sunday, August 14, 2005

We the People, All By Ourselves

In its July 2005 issue, The American Muslim magazine published an article in which Dr. Robert D. Crane endorsed what he called a "traditionalist" approach to the foundation of law. He described this approach as "rooted in the self-evident truth that neither the individual person nor the collective of humankind is the ultimate sovereign in the universe, and in the corollary conviction that, without an objective right and wrong as the basis for law, cosmos must become chaos." As a concrete manifestation of the traditionalist approach, the article suggested the following language for the preamble to the Iraqi constitution currently under construction:

The ultimate sovereignty of the Divine Creator and Sustainer bestows inalienable rights in the individual person. All other levels of sovereignty derive from and are subordinate to that of the human person. This inalienable sovereignty of the person confers on every man, woman, and child basic responsibilities to respect and advance universal justice in the form of inalienable human rights for all others.
This morning on NPR's Morning Edition, Jonathan Morrow of the U.S. Institute for Peace, who has served as a constitutional adviser in Iraq, quoted from "an earlier draft" as follows:

We, the representatives of the Iraqi people, through the will of God and through the free will of the Iraqi people, announce that we have completed the constitution for the purpose of achieving the following aims: the installation of justice on a strong basis in order to guarantee the rights of all people and citizens without fear or prejudice by applying the principle of the rule of law, to guarantee fundamental freedoms . . .
Unlike Crane's text, the language quoted by Morrow bears a passing resemblance to the familiar language of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. However, as different as Crane's and Morrow's texts are, they share a feature that the U.S. Constitution lacks: God.

The Roy Moores, Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world want us to believe that the United States was founded on Biblical principles as a Christian Nation. They should observe how easy it would have been for the Framers to slip in a supernatural reference—if not the elaborate theoretical foundation of Crane's suggested text, then at least a clause acknowledging the Divine Will, as in the draft Morrow cited.

Instead, they gave us a document that's resolutely Godless. The Preamble is a case in point: the only agents it mentions are We the People, acting on our own authority. As John Adams wrote of the 13 original state governments, the U.S. Constitution is "founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery".
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.
This can't be an oversight.