God save our states

August 1 being Colorado statehood day, I got to thinking about the role of the states in our federal union. Joanna Barton, who teaches government at a London prep school, told me last week on the Glenwood train that she's spending a month here trying to figure that out. Bottom-up diversity from state to state in politics, economics, and culture is one of the glories of America. One trait that is remarkably similar across all 50 states, however, is the grounding of their form of government on spiritual reliance, not on the secularism so fashionable today.

Colorado joined the Union on Aug. 1, 1876, with a state constitution whose preamble reads:

We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice; insure tranquillity; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the "State of Colorado".

The drafters met by authority of an Enabling Act of the US Congress, which stipulated that the new state's

constitution shall be republican in form... and not be repugnant to the constitution of the United States and the principles of the declaration of independence; and... that perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested in person or property, on account of his or her mode of religious worship.

The Declaration of Independence, in turn, reverently invokes God not once but four times: as lawgiver, "Creator," "Supreme Judge of the World," and "Divine Providence." Its principles, to which Colorado's constitution-makers were obligated to adhere, can hardly be called secularist.

As researcher William J. Federer has shown, every single state also reverently invokes God in its constitutional preamble or bill of rights. All fifty; no exceptions. Specifically looking at some of our neighboring western states, here's what we find:

* Arizona, 1911... "grateful to Almighty God for our liberties" * Idaho, 1889... "grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings" * Montana, 1889... "grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty" * Nevada, 1864... "grateful to Almighty God for our freedom" * New Mexico, 1911... "grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty" * Utah, 1896... "grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of life and liberty" * Wyoming, 1890... "grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties"

Returning to the Centennial State as we mark our 131st birthday today, Colorado's motto bears remembering by all who compete politically here, and by all who await what state government may do to or for them. "Nil Sine Numine," it says in Latin; "Nothing without the Spirit."