Excerpt 1

Topics for Discussion.

  1. The discussion at the convention in 1956 over whether the constitution should have included a reference to God was both temperate and civil, despite the widely divergent and deeply-held points of view. Ask students to consider what this says about the way the convention operated?
  2. Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of a liberal society. To what extent does the recognition of the mere existence of God imply an "establishment of religion" as some of the Delegates argued?
  3. Given that the convention opened every day with a prayer, as Delegate Jim Doogan said in the debate, and the many instances in which civil actions seem to have religious implications (coinage, oaths, etc.) why were the religious implications of the preamble seen as an possible infringement of liberty?
  4. What do you make of Delegate Doogan's contention that the deletion of God was an insult to the two delegates who were also ministers?
  5. The move to delete "God" failed by voice vote, meaning there was an overwhelming majority, in contrast to the 24-24 tie on the "Almighty God" phrase. What does that say if anything about the religious convictions of the convention?
  6. In your opinion does the phrase "Almighty God" have the connotations that Delegate Kilcher claimed?
  7. Consider why the framers of the federal constitution intentionally refrained from including any reference to a Supreme Being, while the drafters of the many state constitutions had no hesitation about making references to a Supernatural power. Was the federal omission possibly an oversight? Why or why not?
  8. Compare and contrast the three drafts of the preamble discussed above. If you were a delegate in 1956, which do you think you might have preferred?
  9. What should one make of the contention that neglecting to specifically mention Alaska Natives in the preamble was a mistake? What would have been the main points of debate on such a matter?