God in Grundgesetz

Justin Collings is Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School and author of Democracy’s Guardians: A History of the German Federal Constitutional Court, 1951-2001 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

God is in the Grundgesetz—Germany’s Basic Law or postwar constitution—and right there at the beginning, the first proper noun in the entire document. “Conscious of their responsibility before God and man . . . ,” the preamble begins, and God comes first.

By putting God in the preamble, the Basic Law’s framers were not simply following tradition. The Weimar Constitution made no mention of God, nor did Bismarck’s Constitution for the German Empire, nor did the abortive “Paul’s Church” Constitution of 1848. And nor, most famously, did the U.S. Constitution of 1787, the oldest written constitution of them all. So what led the Basic Law’s framers to invoke—or at least to mention—God in the Constitution of 1949?


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God in the Irish Constitution

Dr. David Kenny is Assistant Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin

Upon first reading, God, and some of his consistent personages, plays a striking and prominent role in the Irish Constitution. But like many things, the meaning and effect of this is not as clear and as obvious as one might think, and the real story of the God in the Irish Constitution is more complicated than one might initially assume.

A Godly Preamble

In their first week of law school, I have my Constitutional Law students read the Irish Constitution and ask for their impressions. For almost all of them, it is their first time reading the text in full. Every year, multiple students note the religiosity of the text as the most striking feature. Before even that most common invocation of popular power “We, the people,” our Constitution’s Preamble begins with a very different invocation:


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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.


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