The delegates devoted considerable attention to the preamble. While acknowledging that the few words on the first page would not have much legal significance, if any whatsoever, they knew the symbolic weight of the opening sentence. Generally the delegates deliberately emulated the wording of the federal constitution or existing state constitutions whenever possible, hoping that such a conservative approach would not raise any new objections to statehood, and also eventually help ensure Congressional approval of statehood.

The Committee on the Preamble and the Bill of Rights initially reported a preamble modeled after a typical state constitution: "We, the people of the State of Alaska, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, seeking His continued blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit these liberties unimpaired to posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Delegate Vic Rivers thought this version of the preamble was less than inspired and stressed the need for the Alaskan preamble to break new ground on this section, above all others. He hoped it to be "a statement of the intent and the feeling of those…who drafted it," Rivers said, "rather than merely taking the words of some other group who drafted a constitution under…different circumstances." This was especially important he thought because "a great many of the people who vote on this constitution may not read it, in its entirety," but "practically everyone…will read the preamble."

Rivers' substitute, co-sponsored with 11 other delegates, not only toned down the religious nature of the preamble, but also paid special tribute to the founders of the United States and to the pioneers of Alaska: "We the people of Alaska, conscious of our heritage of political, civil and religious liberty, grateful to God and to those who founded the nation and pioneered this great land, reaffirm our belief in government by consent of the governed within the Union of States and do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Alaska."

The mention of those who "pioneered this great land" has in more recent years prompted complaints that Alaska Natives should have also been acknowledged in the preamble, and that perhaps this oversight should be rectified by constitutional amendment. Delegate Marston had noticed the issue at the convention itself in 1956. "…In our preamble," Marston said while arguing for Native land rights, "we speak of the pioneers of Alaska—well, they are great. You see a man with boots on, a packsack, a pick and shovel, and a pan. We speak much in our convention here about founding fathers—great men they were, but greater men and many more of them lived long before the founding father or before the prospectors hit Alaska, and there are 30,000 of those people living here now in Alaska, and we have passed them by… too long."

Given the preamble's emblematic importance, one of the most emotional debates at the entire convention concerned whether the preamble should include a reference to God or any supernatural being. Those in favor of thanking God in the Alaska Constitution had U.S. history, if not the U.S. Constitution, on their side.

Jefferson had credited the "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and during the Civil War "In God We Trust" had begun to appear on U.S. coinage. Little more than a year before the delegates had gathered in Fairbanks, the U.S. Congress officially added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance which dated to 1892. However, even though the vast majority of the framers in 1787 were Protestant Christians (the remainder included two Roman Catholics and a handful of Deists), the U.S. Constitution pointedly made no mention at all to a Supreme Being.

In order to guard the religious liberty of all, the founding fathers in Philadelphia in 1787 deliberately avoided all religious references. But state constitutions were another matter. More than half-a-dozen states still deny political office to anyone who does not believe in God. The Texas Bill of Rights for example states that an office holder cannot be discriminated against on religious grounds "provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." (Article 1, Section 4) Likewise in North Carolina, a traitor, felon or "any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God" is disqualified from holding public office. (Article VI, Section 8)

Each of the 50 state constitutions today refer explicitly to God in one way or another, with the most popular reference being "Almighty God" (36 states), while others simply say "God," "Creator," or "Supreme Being." Hawaii proclaims they are "grateful for Divine Guidance." In Missouri, Washington, and Colorado the constitutions thank the "Supreme Ruler of the Universe," while the Massachusetts state charter—written in part by John Adams and Samuel Adams in 1779—credits "the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe."

The Style and Drafting Committee trimmed the Rivers proposal by nine words to read: "We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil and religious liberty do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Alaska."

Though this version had far less religious overtones than the initial proposal from the Preamble and Bill of Rights Committee—"Almighty God" had been deleted in favor of "God," and the phrase "seeking His continued blessing upon our endeavors" had also been cut—some delegates still felt that this was not secular enough, and that the mere mention of God could constitute an "establishment of religion." Yule Kilcher claimed that giving thanks to God was "tantamount" to a law establishing a religion, and would be found offensive by "atheists…pantheists, Buddhists…Jews."

One key point of the religious debate focused in part on how closely the delegates should follow the model of 1787. Several delegates, confusing the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, erroneously believed that the latter gives thanks to God. As Frank Barr of Fairbanks said, "our government is based upon a belief of a god, and you will find it so stated in the Constitution….Our government is based on a religious belief and since we are writing a constitution which is to be based upon our National Constitution, that's the kind it should be."

Barrie White of Anchorage moved to delete the reference to God, even though he admitted he didn't expect it to be approved. He wasn't an atheist, he said, but a church-going man who believed acknowledging the existence of a supernatural deity was in effect an establishment of religion. White charged that the committee had proudly stated the wording deviated "hardly one iota from the preamble to the federal constitution. Well here is one case where they did. And I think it was interesting to note that our forbearers, the Fathers of the country, for all their deeply help religious convictions…left out any words such as these."

After the convention handily defeated White's suggestion to delete the reference to God, Delegate Tom Harris said they should "restore Him to full title and make it ‘Almighty God.'" Those opposed to "Almighty God" thought the adjective was too "custom bound" and did not sound ecumenical enough. Kilcher said, "‘God' without an adjective is more comprehensive and more acceptable to various faiths, Christians and non-Christians alike." Unable to determine the wish of the body on a voice vote, a tense roll call vote followed. The margin could not have been closer; the proposal went down to defeat on a 24-24 tie. And thus it was by a single vote that "Almighty God" did not make it into the Alaska Constitution.