Gov. Noem signed into law a requirement that public schools display the national motto. But the law does not suggest — as your guest op-ed did — that “Christianity is being thrust upon South Dakotans” (Is SD Sanctioning Christianity?” April 11). Both the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and our state motto, “Under God the People Rule,” are most relevant and necessary reminders that we are intended to be a people governed by godly principles.

The U.S. Constitution reminds us in its last paragraph that we must give account to God for our actions, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”

Neither our national nor our state motto disrespects a “wall of separation” between church and state. They do quite the opposite. The “wall” recognizes that our rule of government must not impose a religion upon the people. At the same time, it encourages the Biblical understanding that the way of blessed governance must support and strengthen godly virtues. “Under God the People Rule” undergirds such understanding, that we must not be separated from those virtues revealed in our godly heritage. We are to remember, as President John F. Kennedy declared, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Our national and state mottos reinforce the understanding that a free people have the legal right to freely live their faith even in public, without fear of governmental coercion. Separation of church and state guarantees that we’re free to practice faith, or free to not practice faith, according to our conscience. And that freedom also allows us to debate over spiritual matters in the public square.

(5) comments


There are 7951 words in the Constitution. including the Amendments. Not One of them is God, Bible, Christian, etc.
In addition, John Adams said “The Government of the United States is in no way founded on the Christian Religion.”


Never codified by law, E pluribus unum was considered a de facto motto of the United States until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting "In God We Trust" as the official motto.. And, that was the result of the McCarthism witch-hunt.

Rachel Lassiter

Our system does not rest upon the revealed will of God. We are not a theocracy. We are constitutional federal republic. We were founded on the principle of religious liberty.

Both the state and federal constitutions prevent the imposition of anyone's understanding of "God or Godly principles" on others. According to the South Dakota Constitution: "No person shall be compelled to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship."


Rev. Charles W. Wonnenberg writes the last paragraph of the US Constitution appeals to "the Supreme Judge of the world." Rev. Wonnenburg is mistaken. As
Justthinking notes "God, Bible, Christian, etc..." are not mentioned in the Constitution.

If fact the Constitution expressly forbids the government from encouraging "the Biblical understanding" of governance. State and national mottoes don't carry the force of law. The courts have ruled the mottoes don't violate the establishment clause because No longer religious in nature, the phrases have become, rather, a historical artifact, a public recognition of the role of religion in national life and because these acknowledgements don't signify a government endorsement of any specific religion.

I remember discussing this topic with Rev. Wonnenburg during the g@y marriage debate. He contended the constitution was "...modeled it on Holy Scripture, believing our laws are intended to rightly be God-given, not man-made, through the operation of the Spirit working through God-fearers--also knowing the power of sin which quenches righteousness."

We know Rev. Wonnenburg is mistaken. The U.S. Constitution was written by men. We even know their names. We have their notes and letters and articles about their work. James Madison and others took notes on the Constitutional Convention. None of these notes mention Bible passages in the debate about the Constitution but they do mention Rome, Sparta, German confederacies, Montesquieu and other non-biblical sources.

The Federalist Papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to explain and promote ratification of the Constitution. They did not cite a Biblical source for any principles in the Constitution. The constitution is based upon the principles of popular sovereignty, limited government, and separation of powers, judicial review, and federalism. These ideas postdate the Holy Scripture.

Finally, the inclusion of slavery in the Constitution shows it was not “the operation of the Spirit working through God-fearers” but the political compromise of men trying their best to create a better government.


Either the Rev is totally ignorant of the Constitution and history, or he’s trying to keep others the same.

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