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?