No Constitutional Claim for a 'Christian' Nation
A number of recently published letters to the editor have explicitly asserted that the United States is a "Christian" nation.
This is false. I would urge your readers to buy Jon Meacham's excellent book, "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation."
Meacham, a believer, argues that the founders invented a kind of "public religion," as one reviewer puts it, that " was not specifically Christian, but broad enough to cover the Christian, the Jew, and the Deist."
That said, let us look to the Constitution. the first legally binding document that is the basis for the creation of our government institutions, and the rule book, so to speak, of how these institutions are to operate. It could have said that the United States is a Christian nation and that all future laws should conform to basic tenets of Christianity. It does not say that.
Neither Christianity nor God is mentioned in the Constitution. Religion is mentioned but only insofar as saying in the First Amendment that " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Far from suggesting that the United States was to be a Christian nation, this elegant phrase was, in the context of the late 18th century, drafted to ensure that there would be no official religion in the new United States, in stark contrast to the practice in nearly every country in Europe at the time, including, most importantly, Great Britain.
The United States is a great nation -- not because we are Christian but because we are a nation of all religions and of no religions. In being so, we are a model to all others where this is decidedly not the case.
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