G‑d is in the news these days, with the recent tumult in regards to the placement of reminders about Him on public property. There's a Supreme Court decision in the works, newspaper editorials and talk-shows galore, heated discussions around the water cooler.

I'm reminded of a recent trip to Russia. In the Moscow airport, long, dimly lit, dead-silent hallways recall an era not many have forgotten. On the walls still hang symbols of a regime that banned all expressions of faith, banned the very word "G‑d" from every piece of printed matter. If one did not forget one's religious beliefs, they scraped it off one's soul (or tried to). For three generations, hundreds of millions of Soviet citizens forced themselves to forget G‑d, to expunge Him from their daily conversations, to rid themselves of all materials with mention of His name. Those that did not were either tortured, exiled to Siberia or went underground with their faith.

From the airport, a Volvo carries me through the Moscow streets to Europe’s largest hotel. It is a hot spot of activity, people going in and out. At each of its four entrances there are some forty prostitutes milling about, some no older than 16-17, smoking and drinking alcohol, eyeing every man that walks through the doors.

This grand hotel is across the street from the Kremlin, center of the former Soviet Union’s communist government. The hotel, I am told by the receptionist, is full of gangsters and the mafia. "You look like a good Jewish boy," she says, "you shouldn't be here." She explains that she recognizes me as a religious Jew because she is a regular at the Chabad synagogue in Moscow. "Make sure your door is locked, and don't leave your money in the room!"

A few weeks later I'm in a different hotel room, this one in downtown Philadelphia. It's a very different atmosphere. I find a Bible on the nighttable. I buy a coke from the bartender and pay with money that's inscribed with the message, "In G‑d We Trust." A very different atmosphere.

G‑d is not a stranger to us Americans. Most of us were raised with the idea that there is "an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears" our every action — a Higher Authority to whom we are answerable. We are fortunate that our great forefathers believed in G‑d. We have them largely to thank that the "Moscow Hotel" scene is the exception rather than the norm in America's cities and towns.

Things are changing, though. The "fear of Heaven" of our grandparents has been replaced by other fears. Today, we are law-abiding citizens largely because we're afraid of what our neighbors might say, or we're afraid of being caught by the police or the IRS. But when we're certain that no one is looking, that no one will ever know... Our grandparents, in contrast, worried about what G‑d would think about their next action.

That's why I think that all the debate regarding G‑d's "place" in public life is a good thing. It stirs people, causes them to think about G‑d, about what He wants from them and how they could apply His truths to their lives.

Judaism gives a simple recommendation: every morning when you wake up, the first thing you should do is thank G‑d for restoring your soul to your body. Before you brush your teeth or wash you face, even before you get out of bed, your first thought is about G‑d.

A "moment of silence" at the start of the school day serves the same purpose: that the child should have a daily reminder that there is a Superior Being in the world.

With the knowledge and awareness that G‑d creates the world, gives us life and expects us to behave responsibly and morally in His world, we could become better people and raise better children.

Unfortunately, some would interpret the U.S. Constitution as precluding G‑d and religious belief from American public life. Such an interpretation runs contrary to the Constitution's own most basic underpinnings. Our constitution was created "by the people for the people." Its purpose is to achieve peace, harmony, honesty and integrity among the citizens of our country. The Founding Fathers saw the Creator as the ultimate source and guarantor of our unalienable rights and freedoms. Everything in the American tradition — from the swearing-in of government officers on a Bible to the Pledge of Allegiance to the inscription on our currencies — affirms this principle.

In the words of Senator Joseph Lieberman, "As a U.S. Senator, I truly cherish our Bill of Rights, yet I believe that the First Amendment has been misinterpreted when it comes to the role of religion in public life. Our forefathers promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and our society suffers when we are prevented from embracing our most fundamental beliefs through the expression of faith in our daily lives."

I keep thinking of the new emerging contrast between East and West: the difference between a society that was extremely law-abiding — but only for as long as a police state struck terror in its heart — and a society where the awareness of a Higher Authority is the underlying regulator of moral behavior. I keep thinking of the difference of a society emerging from 70 years of G‑dlessness, and one that's the product of 230 years of G‑d-awareness. I keep thinking of the difference between a society that has "Ten Rubles" inscribed on its money, and one in which the currency carries the message, "In G‑d We Trust."