Written in stone: Lawmakers honor God
Constitution’s granite Preamble to be displayed in House Chamber
By Allen Palmeri
February 22, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – On Feb. 28, Missouri’s House of Representatives will dedicate in the House Chamber of the State Capitol a stone monument etched with all 31 words of the preamble to the Missouri Constitution. Now, thousands of Missouri Baptists can glorify God by giving to this cause.
Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who sponsored the resolution last year that resulted in the creation of the 158-pound, Missouri-shaped monument, needs $8,000 to complete the project. Taxpayer dollars cannot be used to pay for it, so Schaaf is asking for small donations from as many Missourians as possible. That is where Rodney Albert, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, comes in.
“All we need is for about 8,000 Missourians to give $1,” Albert said. “It wouldn’t hurt to drop in a brief thank you note to Rep. Schaaf for his work. That might be a good way for folks to identify themselves as a Missouri Baptist.”
The preamble refers to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Schaaf, a Christian who declined to talk about his church membership, said that this type of acknowledgement of God in state government is precisely what America needs.
“If this is found to be illegal for us to have on the wall, the implication will be that every constitution in the United States will be declared in violation of the First Amendment, and there is no way that the people who wrote the First Amendment and approved it intended for that to be the case,” he said.
“It’s written that way (“the Supreme Ruler of the Universe”) because no matter what your religion is, as long as you’re not an atheist, then that is your God. It’s for all Missourians. That’s why I think that it’s so appropriate. I don’t feel like there should be very many people who would be offended by that. For me, it’s God Almighty, my God, the Christian God. To me, Jesus is the Son of God.
“I think that the preamble tells the state of mind of the writers when they established our constitution. They did it with profound reverence for God. That was their state of mind. They recognized Him as a person, because they’re grateful for His goodness. In the statute books the word ‘His’ is capitalized. By putting this up on the wall, it’s reminding us that just as they created our constitution with that frame of mind, we, the legislators, should do our work with the exact same frame of mind—with profound reverence for Him.”
The fool states there is no God (Psalm 14:1), but by dedicating this monument when it starts its business at 4 p.m., Feb. 28, the House will be stating its belief in the exact opposite.
House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, a fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, suggested to Schaaf that he place the monument, made of special black granite found only in Zimbabwe, in the House chamber for three weeks in February before it is affixed to the southeast wall of the House Chamber. Schaaf liked that idea, and ever since then he has heard many comments about how beautiful the monument looks.
Schaaf transported the monument Feb. 7 from St. Joseph, where the art department of Missouri Western State College designed it, to Jefferson City. Jetton’s affirmation of the monument prompted Schaaf to display it.
“I just thought that the other members of the chamber would like to touch it, see it, admire it, and be right up close with it before it goes up on the wall,” Schaaf said. “I think most people are very proud of it.”
Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the MBC’s Christian Life Commission, helped propel the preamble monument resolution through the General Assembly last year. He said that acknowledging God in this manner helps correct a lot of misconceptions about the role of true religion in government.
“Why are we arguing over separation of church and state?” Messer asked. “This is the basis of our government, and we’re not ashamed of that. It’s a matter of fact. It’s not a matter of theology.”
“There is no way that the Founders of our country intended for the words of our First Amendment to mean that we couldn’t at least acknowledge the existence of God,” he said. “It’s a far cry from respecting the establishment of a religion to saying that you can’t recognize that God exists. If you say that you cannot even recognize that God exists, then what you’re doing is you’re respecting atheism, which is a religion.”
Schaaf said the legacy of the monument will be when children and grandchildren of donors walk into the chamber and tell their loved ones that a relative — back in 2005 — gave $1 or $5.
“They can look up on the wall and feel proud that they actually put an acknowledgement of God right into the House chamber,” Schaaf said. “We’re making a statement that it is our right to do this. Those who don’t use their rights lose them, and so by exercising our right, we’re protecting it. We can put an acknowledgement of God into the House chamber.”