God in Secular Constitutions

Dmytro Vovk, Director of the Center for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion

Carl Schmitt points out in Political Theology that “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.” Likewise, many doctrines and concepts of modern constitutionalism have theological roots and have been developed in the dialogue with religious tradition. Religion has never fully disappeared from texts of secular constitutions—it lingers in symbolic references to God, religious formulas in presidential oaths, constitutional agreements with churches of majorities, and so on.

This series explores the normative, interpretative, political, and symbolic role of mentioning God, the Trinity, and other sacraments in secular constitutions. The contributors consider the German, Greek, Irish, Polish, and Russian cases. These pieces show that although references to God in constitutional preambles do not have any direct influence on regulating human rights, religion, or public morality issues, they might have some indirect effect and could potentially be a tool of promoting the conservative ethical agenda (see Fokas’s and Szymaniec’s pieces). In other cases, this reference may aim to emphasize the secular, but not secularist, nature of the constitution (see Collings’s post) or shape church-state relations and the scope of religious freedom protections (see Kenny’s contribution). In addition, Mikhail Antonov demonstrates that recent amendments to the Russian constitution inserting “the faith of ancestors” into the constitutional text may be utilized for arguing a more exclusive role of the religion of the majority (or traditional religions) and for justifying the conservative interpretation of the Russian constitution.

Posts in the series

Justin CollingsGod in the Grundgesetz

Effie FokasThe Trinity, the “Prevailing Religion,” and the Greek Constitution

David KennyGod in the Irish Constitution

Piotr SzymaniecThe Notion of God and Christian Heritage in Polish Constitutions

Mikhail AntonovGod in the Russian Constitution