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Many Americans say God inspired the Constitution ... except that part about guns

Did God inspire the Constitution? Here’s what Americans believe, according to two recent surveys

SHARE Many Americans say God inspired the Constitution ... except that part about guns
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Michelle Budge, Deseret News

As a growing group of scholars warns against viewing the United States as a Christian nation, new research shows that many Americans see a link between the Constitution and God.

More than half of U.S. adults (55%) believe the Constitution is inspired by God, according to the Faith in America survey, which was released in March by Deseret News and Marist Poll.

The Deseret-Marist survey used a yes-or-no question to ask about the Constitution’s origins, which may help explain why it found higher support for the idea of divine inspiration than other recent surveys.

Pew Research Center reported last fall that only 18% of U.S. adults believe the Constitution was “inspired by God (and) reflects God’s vision for America.” That survey gave respondents more detailed options to choose from, and most (67%) said the “Constitution was written by humans and reflects their vision, not necessarily God’s vision.”

Taken together, the surveys show that many Americans are at least open to the idea that divine inspiration helped produce the Constitution. Both found that practicing Christians — and white evangelical Protestants in particular — are especially likely to think God played a role and that more Republicans embrace the idea than Democrats.

Americans’ beliefs about the Constitution and their beliefs about the U.S. government’s relationship to religion, more broadly, have been in the spotlight in recent years as scholars work to raise awareness of a concept called “Christian nationalism.”

According to these scholars, as well as some faith leaders and political experts, support for the idea that God inspired America’s founding documents or that the country is meant to be a Christian nation can become problematic when coupled with other, related beliefs.

Intense Christian nationalists are often exclusionary and reject the country’s promise of religious freedom for all, said Andrew Whitehead, co-author of “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” to the Deseret News last year.

In its most extreme forms, Christian nationalism is “a threat to a pluralistic democratic society,” he said.

Whitehead’s research has shown that support for Christian nationalism can influence people’s ideas about seemingly unrelated political issues. For example, he’s found that “how much someone subscribes to Christian nationalism is one of the best predictors of whether they’re open to gun control.”

“For Christian nationalists, the gun-control debate isn’t just about guns. It’s about a perceived blessing by God of the right to bear arms. Any attempt to limit this right is a denial of the foundational liberties instituted by God,” Whitehead wrote in a piece about his research for The Washington Post.

In other words, believing that God was and is closely involved in the workings of U.S. politics raises the stakes of the debate. If you view the world through a Christian nationalist lens, a challenge to the Second Amendment, which grants the right to bear arms, could feel like an attack on God.

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If that idea makes you anxious, you might be relieved to hear that Americans, in general, hold nuanced views about which parts of the Constitution were divinely inspired.

While 55% of U.S. adults say the Constitution, as a whole, was inspired by God, just 37% say the Second Amendment was, according to the Faith in America survey from the Deseret News and Marist Poll. By contrast, 62% of Americans say the First Amendment, which grants the rights of free speech and religious exercise, among others, was inspired by God.

“Americans are less convinced that divine inspiration played a role in the Second Amendment,” researchers wrote in the survey report, noting that around half (53%) of Christians believe God did not inspire the right to bear arms.

The Deseret News-Marist survey was fielded in January among 1,653 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.