Photographs by Callista Gingrich
By Callista Gingrich
Read by Newt Gingrich
Read by Callista Gingrich
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Explore the architecture and beauty of America’s capital with Newt and Callista Gingrich. You’ll tour Washington, D.C. to view the nation’s monuments and memorials, including the United States Capitol and the National Archives, where Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words jump off the page.
But this is not just a walking tour; this is a tour of American history — of the patriotic founders who were shaped by the fervent belief that America is one nation under God. With this guide, you’ll rediscover the soul of our country and find a profound path of discovery and renewal.
Table of Contents
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One Nation Under God
That a third edition of Rediscovering God in America is coming out ten years after its original publication is a testament to the staying power of the simple idea behind this book. In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were unconstitutional. We believed a rebuttal was in order that would go well beyond legal argumentation. This rebuttal was to reveal the truth about American history as expressed in marble and concrete. It was to reveal what the generation that wrote our Constitution, and the following generations that defended it, actually believed about the role of God in American life. We know what they believed about the Creator and the public square because they built monuments in our nation's capital that reflected these beliefs.
Thus was born the idea of a walking tour of Washington, D.C., that would take visitors from monument to memorial to reflect upon the expression of faith in God revealed throughout our nation's capital. Originally, this walking tour was an appendix to Newt's 2005 book Winning the Future. But the idea proved to be so popular, that we published Rediscovering God in America one year later as a stand-alone book that incorporated and built upon the ideas expressed in Winning the Future.
At the time, we did not know how successful Rediscovering God in America would become. We also could not have anticipated how its subject matter would shape so much of our thinking and creative work over the years that followed.
As a book, the first two editions have sold more than 100,000 copies. In 2007, we worked with David Bossie of Citizens United to turn the content of Rediscovering God in America into a documentary film with the same name. A year later, we produced a sequel documentary, Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage. Together, the two documentary films have sold more than 300,000 copies.
A little more than two years later, in 2010, we collaborated again with David Bossie and Citizens United to produce Nine Days that Changed the World, a documentary film about Pope John Paul II's nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979. Although the film is about a Polish pope and events in Poland and Eastern Europe, its underlying theme is about the universal truth that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are cornerstones of a free society, which is the same message of Rediscovering God in America.
In this third edition, we have expanded the introduction to stress the larger stakes involved if we continue down the road of eroding religious liberty in America. It underscores how religious conviction has always been a source of national renewal and improvement and that we must reverse course if we wish to remain an exceptional nation. We have also added a chapter on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., which had not been built at the time of the first edition.
Since the original publication of Rediscovering God in America warned about the secular Left's effort to drive God out of America's public square, the situation has only gotten worse. Now, it's not only the courts, but also the executive and legislative branches, as well as the administrative bureaucracies, which have acted to dramatically undermine our religious liberty. For example, President Obama's landmark piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), threatens religious liberty through the health insurance requirements it places on employers. The ACA allows these requirements to be defined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has determined that the ACA requires religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide their employees with contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs, and other devices that violate their religious convictions.
At the time of this writing, the Little Sisters of the Poor have sued to protect their religious liberty and the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case. The stakes could not be clearer. If the Supreme Court fails to uphold the religious liberty rights of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to practice their faith as they see fit, many will decide to disband their ministries to the sick and the poor rather than cooperate with mandates that violate their faith. It will also be a clear signal that the judicial branch will be a very weak defender of religious liberty against hostile administrative agencies and overreaching legislators and executive branch officials.
Nevertheless, the courts remain the biggest long-term threat to religious liberty in America. Legislative actions and presidential decisions can be reversed in the next election, but hostile judicial decisions today have staying power far beyond what the Founding Fathers contemplated.
As you will note in these pages, the most revolutionary concept espoused by America's Founders and enshrined in our Declaration and Constitution is that every life has equal value and worth. It is the same ideal that motivated the Founders to go to unprecedented lengths to protect religious liberty.
Indeed, our entire American system of government is premised upon a deeply religious ideal. The proposition that "all men are created equal" expresses a profound religious principle that recognizes God as the ultimate authority over any government. We are only equal if we are, in fact, created. Only if we assume we have a Creator can we assert that our rights have been "endowed" to us by God—and only then are those rights "unalienable."
While constituting a government based upon these ideas was radical for the Founders' generation, these ideas used to be the commonly accepted cultural understanding of our form of government. That this common understanding is being eroded was the original reason for writing Rediscovering God in America.
If all men and women are created equal, then not even the most powerful man, group, or government on earth has the power to infringe or trample upon our rights.
If all men and women are created equal, then all human beings are equally susceptible to the appeal of power and to the inherent temptation to dictate how others should live their lives. Thus, the best government is a limited one; one that restricts the rule of man by instituting the rule of law, which applies to everyone from presidents to parking lot attendants.
If all men and women are created equal, then every person is equally accountable to God and his fellow man to live a life of virtue, productivity, and personal responsibility. This life can only be realized in a society in which each person has the freedom to choose between right and wrong, as well as good and bad. For freedom to endure, it is vital to cultivate the values that make it possible to sustain such freedoms.
If all men are created equal, then each and every individual has equal dignity and inherent worth, regardless of his or her station in life, ethnic background, political beliefs, or personal achievements or failures.
An America that openly rejects faith and the faithful will undermine the surest supports of human dignity in American life. An anti-religious America will cultivate a utilitarian culture that elevates the powerful and crushes the weak. But an America that continues to welcome faith and the faithful as integral to American public life will give to the poorest and most forgotten segments of society the hope that they too have a right to pursue the American Dream.
—Newt and Callista Gingrich
THE CREATOR AND THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SQUARE
There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the secular Left's relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square. The 2002 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the phrase "under God" is unconstitutional represents a fundamental assault on our American identity. A court that would unilaterally modify the Pledge of Allegiance as adopted by the Congress in 1954, signed by President Eisenhower, and supported by 91 percent of the American people is a court that is clearly out of step with an America that understands that our unalienable rights come from God.
This book, a walking tour of our nation's capital, is a rebuttal to those who seek to write God out of American history. Step by step, you will see the concrete case for defending the place that America has always acknowledged for the Creator in our public life.
In the Pledge of Allegiance case, while the Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Circuit on procedural grounds, it did not affirm that saying "under God" was constitutional. Only three of the justices took that position. Five of the justices hid behind procedural excuses, ruling that the plaintiff did not have legal standing to file the suit. The ninth justice, Antonin Scalia, had recused himself because he had made a public speech supporting the Pledge.
But if the plaintiff did have legal standing, the Supreme Court might have had—amazingly—a five to four majority in 2004 for declaring "under God" unconstitutional. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor only defended the phrase "under God" in the Pledge by arguing that it was meaningless:
Even if taken literally, the phrase is merely descriptive; it purports only to identify the United States as a Nation subject to divine authority. That cannot be seen as a serious invocation of God or as an expression of individual submission to divine authority.… Any religious freight the words may have been meant to carry has long since been lost.
The Pledge, she deemed, merely invoked "civic deism." Yet, if pledging allegiance to one nation under God does not mean we believe America is a nation under God (and by extension, ourselves as citizens as well), what could it possibly mean?
When a handful of judges can ignore history and decide they can overrule the culture of 91 percent of America, how can the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, maintain its moral authority? It can't. The Court itself begins each day with the proclamation, "God save the United States and this honorable Court." This phrase has been used for almost two hundred years. It was not adopted as a ceremonial phrase of no meaning; it was adopted because justices in the 1820s actually wanted to call on God to save the United States and the Court.
Similarly, the Pledge of Allegiance does not contain a "ceremonial" reference to God. The term "under God" was inserted deliberately by Congress to draw the distinction between atheistic tyranny (the Soviet Union) and a free society whose freedoms were based on the God-given rights of each person. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in Zorach vs. Clauson just two years before the Congress added the words "under God" to the Pledge: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."
In the last fifty years, the Court has moved from recognizing the central importance of religious supports of America's republican institutions to tolerating traditional expressions of religious belief only on the basis of their presumed insincerity.
For most Americans, the blessings of God are the basis of our liberty, prosperity, and survival as a unique country.
For most Americans, prayer is real, and we subordinate ourselves to a God on whom we call for wisdom, guidance, and salvation.
For most Americans, the prospect of a ruthlessly secular society that would forbid public reference to God and systematically remove all religious symbols from the public square is horrifying.
Yet, the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans is rejected by a media-academic-legal elite that finds religious expression frightening and threatening, or old-fashioned and unsophisticated. The results of their opposition are everywhere.
Our schools have been steadily driving the mention of God out of American history. (Look at your children's textbooks or at the curriculum guide for your local school.)
Our courts have been literally outlawing references to God, religious symbols, and stated public appeals to God. For two generations we have passively accepted the judiciary's assault on the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is time to insist on judges who understand that throughout our history—and continuing to this day—Americans believe that their fundamental rights come from God and are therefore unalienable.
The secular Left has been inventing law and grotesquely distorting the Constitution to achieve a goal that the Founding Fathers would consider a fundamental threat to liberty.
A steadfast commitment to religious freedom is the very cornerstone of American liberty.
People came to America's shores to be free to practice their religious beliefs. That hope brought the Puritans with their desire to create a "city on a hill" that would be a beacon of religious belief and piety. The Pilgrims were another group that poured into the new colonies. Quakers in Pennsylvania were another; Catholics in Maryland yet a fourth. All came seeking religious liberty.
One of the first things English settlers did when arriving to the new world in 1607 was to erect a cross at Cape Henry to give thanks to God for safe passage.
A religious revival, the Great Awakening in the 1730s, inspired many Americans to fight the Revolutionary War to secure their God-given freedoms. Another great religious revival in the nineteenth century inspired the abolitionists' campaign to end slavery.
It was no accident that the marching song of the Union army during the Civil War included the line "as Christ died to make men holy let us die to make men free." That phrase was later changed to "let us live to make men free." But for the men in uniform—who were literally placing their lives on the line to end slavery—they knew that the original line was the right one.
It is a testament to the genius of the Founding Fathers that they designed a practical form of government that allows religious groups the freedom to express their strong religious beliefs in the public square—a constitutional framework that avoids inter-religious conflict and discrimination, which had characterized part of the colonial period.
For the colonists, the argument with the British government was an argument about first principles. Where did power come from? Who defined rights between king and subject? What defined loyalty?
It was in this historic context that America proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that all people "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This is the proposition upon which America was based, and when Thomas Jefferson wrote these lines, he turned on its head the idea that power only came from God through the monarch and then to the people.
Jefferson's immortal words about unalienable rights coming from our Creator echoed the thinking of so many of the Founding Fathers.
Four years before the Declaration of Independence was written, John Adams wrote, "If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave."
In 1775, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
John Dickinson, a Pennsylvania Quaker and signer of the U.S. Constitution, wrote in the same year of the Constitution's adoption that "Kings or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness—we claim them from a higher source—from the King of Kings and the Lord of all the Earth. They are not annexed to us by parchments or seals. They are created in us by the decrees of Providence, which establish the laws of our nature. They are born with us; and cannot be taken from us by any human power."
The Founding Fathers believed that God granted rights directly to every person. Moreover, these rights were "unalienable"—government simply had no power to take them away. Throughout the dramatic years of America's founding, religious expression was commonplace among the Founding Fathers and considered wholly compatible with the principles of the American Revolution. In 1774, the very first Continental Congress invited the Reverend Jacob Duche to begin each session with a prayer. When the war against Britain began, the Continental Congress provided for chaplains to serve with the military and be paid at the same rate as majors in the army.
During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin (often considered one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers) proposed that the Convention begin each day with a prayer. As the oldest delegate, at age eighty-one, Franklin insisted that "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the Affairs of Men."
The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records.
Because of their belief that power had come from God to each individual, the framers began the Constitution with the words "we the people." Note that the Founding Fathers did not write "we the states." Nor did they write "we the government." Nor did they write "we the lawyers and judges" or "we the media and academic classes."
These historic facts pose an enormous problem for the secular Left. How can they explain America without addressing its religious character and heritage? If they dislike and, in many cases, fear this heritage, then how can they communicate the core nature of the American people and their experience?
The answer is that since the secular Left cannot accurately teach American history without addressing America's religious character and its religious heritage, it simply ignores the topic. If you don't teach about the Founding Fathers, you do not have to teach about our Creator. If you don't teach about Abraham Lincoln, you don't have to deal with fourteen references to God and four Bible verses in his 703- word second inaugural address. That speech is actually carved into the wall of the Lincoln Memorial in a permanent affront to every radical secularist who visits this public building. You have to wonder how soon there will be a lawsuit to scrape the references to God and the Bible off the monument so as not to offend those who hate or despise religious expression.
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