A 2007 poll by the First Amendment Center reported that over half of the American people believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Anyone who actually takes the time to read and comprehend the Constitution will recognize the absurdity of that myth. The Constitution is abundantly clear in founding America as a secular nation with staunch religious neutrality. The first amendment is quite direct in its separation of church and state:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And the only mention in the original Constitution itself of religion, besides the utilitarian dating of “in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven” is in Article VI’s separation of religion from the government:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Are you still uncertain of what the founding fathers intended? Then consider the Treaty with Tripoli’s Article 11, negotiated with Muslim rulers in North Africa by George Washington’s administration and unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797 during the administration of John Adams:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
So how do our two serious candidates for the presidential election of 2008 deal with the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation? Barack Obama told the religious right’s CBN News:
I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism. Whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we’re formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we’ve got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.
And now for John McCain, from his interview with the website beliefnet.com:
I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.
McCain’s spin doctors later tried to re-interpret his statement, but methinks he is in need of some remediation. I would assign the following: