Recently, many authors have debated whether or not the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. I wish to provide a few historical quotes from our Founding Era that lend credence to the supposition that we indeed were founded as a Christian nation.
Granted, God is not mentioned in the Constitution, but He is mentioned in every major document leading up to the final wording of the Constitution. For example, Connecticut is still known as the "Constitution State" because its colonial constitution was used as a model for the United States Constitution. Its first words were: "For as much as it has pleased the almighty God by the wise disposition of His Divine Providence…"
Most of the fifty-five Founding Fathers who worked on the Constitution were members of orthodox Christian churches and many were even evangelical Christians. The first official act in the First Continental Congress was to open in Christian prayer, which ended in these words: "...the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Savior. Amen". Sounds Christian to me.
Ben Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention, said: "...God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"
John Adams stated so eloquently during this period of time that; "The general principles on which the fathers achieved Independence were ... the general principles of Christianity ... I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that the general principles of Christianity are as etemal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."
Later, John Quincy Adams answered the question as to why, next to Christmas, was the Fourth of July this most joyous and venerated day in the United States. He answered: "...Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?" Sounds like the founding of a Christian nation to me. John Quincy Adams went on to say that the biggest victory won in the American Revolution was that Christian principles and civil government would be tied together In what he called an "indissoluble" bond. The Founding Fathers understood that religion was inextricably part of our nation and government. The practice of the Christian religion in our government was not only welcomed but encouraged.
The intent of the First Amendment was well understood during the founding of our country. The First Amendment was not to keep religion out of government. It was to keep Government from establishing a 'National Denomination" (like the Church of England). As early as 1799 a court declared: "By our form of government the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed on the same equal footing." Even in the letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Baptists of Danbury Connecticut (from which we derive the term "separation of Church and State") he made it quite clear that the wall of separation was to insure that Government would never interfere with religious activities because religious freedom came from God, not from Government.
Even George Washington who certainly knew the intent of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, since he presided over their formation, said in his "Farewell Address": "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars." Sure doesn't sound like Washington was trying to separate religion and politics.
John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and one of the three men most responsible for the writing of the Constitution declared:
"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is their duty-as well as privilege and interest- of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." Still sounds like the Founding Fathers knew this was a Christian nation.
This view, that we were a Christian nation, was hold for almost 150 years until the Everson v. Board of Education ruling in 1947. Before that momentous ruling, even the Supreme Court knew that we were a Christian nation. In 1892 the Court stated:
"No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people...This is a Christian nation." There it is again! From the Supreme Court of the United States. This court went on to cite 87 precedents (prior actions, words, and rulings) to conclude that this was a "Christian nation".
In 1854, the House Judiciary Committee said: "in this age, there is no substitute for Christianity...That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.'
It should be noted here that even as late as 1958 a dissenting judge warned in Baer v. Kolmorgen that if the court did not stop talking about the "separation of Church and State", people were going to start thinking it was part of the Constitution.
It has been demonstrated in their own words: Ben Franklin, George Washington and John Adams, to the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, how our founding fathers felt about the mix of politics and religion.
When we read articles such as "What's God got to do with it?" (Primack, 5/4) and "The wall between state and church must not be breached" (Tager, 5/7) it just reaffirms how little, even intelligent people, understand about the founding of our great Republic. To say that this nation was not founded as a Christian nation or that the Constitution was not founded on Christian principles is totally at odds with the facts of history.
Back to Citizens for Better Government
Last Modified May 1, 2003