Monday night in Rockville, Md., President Barack Obama told Democratic Senate candidate donors: “As wonderful as the land is here in the United States, as much as we have been blessed by the bounty of this magnificent continent that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, what makes this place special is not something physical. It has to do with this idea that was started by 13 colonies that decided to throw off the yoke of an empire, and said, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

At first blush, that seems like a fine statement about what makes America exceptional. But look at President Obama’s “quote” from the Declaration of Independence again. Here is what the Declaration actually says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If you think that President Obama’s abandonment of the Creator was an accident, think again. Monday was the third time in a little over a month that President Obama wrote the Creator out of one of our nation’s founding documents. He omitted the exact same phrase at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 33rd Annual Awards Gala on September 15 and again at a September 23 fundraiser in New York City.

Remember this is the same President who admonished “small towns in Pennsylvania” and “a lot of small towns in the Midwest” because they “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion.” And the President is not alone. MSNBC’s new “Lean Forward” Progressive Movement branding campaign also leaves out “by their Creator” from their reading of the Declaration. Again, this is no accident. Writing faith in God out of the public sphere allows and encourages Big Government to replace it. The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Messmore explains:

[G]overnment power is inherently limited by the role of other social institutions, such as families, religious congregations, schools, and businesses. The rightful authority of these institutions helps to check the authority of the state. … As government claims responsibility for more tasks, it absorbs the allegiance that citizens once placed in other relationships and forms of association. When the federal government assumes more responsibility for fulfilling the moral obligations among citizens, it tends to undermine the perceived significance and authority of local institutions and communities.

This encourages citizens, instead of looking to their families, churches, or local communities for guidance and assistance, to depend on the government for education, welfare, and various other services. As individuals begin to look more consistently to the government for support, the institutions that are able to generate virtues like trust and responsibility begin to lose their sway in the community. Excessive bureaucratic centralization thus sets in motion a dangerous cycle of dependence and social decay.

For far too long the American people have allowed the Progressive Movement to read out of existence the checks that America’s Founders placed on government in our founding documents. That is why The Heritage Foundation is now distributing a series of pamphlets titled “Understanding America” that explores how the United States’ commitment to the universal truths of human equality and the right to self-government—as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence—requires a vigilant defense of the cause of liberty, both at home and abroad. In the first volume, Heritage’s Matthew Spalding writes:

America’s principles establish religious liberty as a fundamental right. It is in our nature to pursue our convictions of faith. Government must not establish an official religion, just as it must guarantee the free exercise of religion. Indeed, popular government requires a flourishing of religious faith. If a free people are to govern themselves politically, they must first govern themselves morally.

The United States did not grow from a small thirteen colonies to a vast 50 states that produce almost a quarter of the world’s wealth due to an all powerful federal government. It was American civil society, led by families, churches, businesses, communities and associations that built this country. According to the latest Gallup poll, 58% of Americans believe that “the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” Contrast that with President Obama who recently told a Democratic campaign rally in Philadelphia, the very place where the Declaration of Independence was signed, that the United States Chamber of Commerce was “a threat to our democracy.” With all due respect to the President, the American people have a much different view of where the threat to our democracy is coming from.

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