Influenced by popular impression, many of us remain convinced that the United States is a Christian nation, enshrined by Constitutional authority. It is not. The founding fathers of the nation were the historically aware scholars of their time. They knew of the long history of religious wars, starting in Biblical accounts, on through the Crusades, the Inquisition and Martin Luther’s disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church. Many of them were only one or two generations from their European origins. As a recent British colony, they were also aware of the British state church — the Church of England (Episcopalian, Anglican). It is interesting to see in the old Bruton Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, the (about) six-person pews, each with an exclusive gate and the family name to which the pew was designated. The personal pews of President George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe are there, along with many other notables. It would appear probable that the church existed prior to the Revolution and prior to the 1789 signing of the Constitution. After the signing of the Constitution, many would no longer feel the social and political pressure to remain in the ‘official’ church. For example, later in life Thomas Jefferson was considered to be a Unitarian.
However, as these same individuals pondered the contents of the future Constitution it would have been clear that the needs of the new nation with multi ethnic groups and diverse religions should not be denied their religious choice. In other words, freedom of choice of religion was desirable and mandatory. Years later, in 1879 and in 1947, the U.S. Supreme court reaffirmed the intent of the founding fathers.
From The Great Quotations, President Thomas Jefferson, in clear words said, “If we value individual liberty more highly than secularism, than the only kind of secularism that deserves support is one that both supports and protects liberty of belief and of disbelief equally.” So, EVERYONE, including me, can say, “My opinion is allowed, approved and respected.”
From our forefather’s days comes another clear statement. Ed Doerr in Free Inquiry Magazine Oct/Nov 2005, “The treaty with Tripoli, approved by the Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797 declares that, “The government of the United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.””
It remains for Wendy Kaminer in the Free Inquiry Magazine Oct/Nov 2005, to succinctly make it clear once more. “Secular does not mean without religion. Secularism is a democratic system of government that accommodates religious beliefs, without endorsing or enforcing, — gives me and everyone else the opportunity to muddle as we may. Secularism puts freedom of conscience first; and it values religious liberty over popular notions of religious truth.” Could it be said better.
For more stories of the follies of war, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.