www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Tale of two laws -4/23/2014, 8:35 AM

Use this old world wisely -4/23/2014, 8:35 AM

Race and Obama news coverage -4/23/2014, 8:34 AM

Truth about Obamacare -4/23/2014, 8:34 AM

Start by believing -4/22/2014, 10:09 AM

Talking taxes in Kansas -4/22/2014, 10:08 AM

The huge disconnect -4/22/2014, 10:08 AM

Legislation ridiculous -4/22/2014, 10:08 AM

Think about the future -4/22/2014, 10:08 AM

Indians get snookered -4/21/2014, 10:27 AM

Religion's unfair advantage unwarranted -4/21/2014, 10:27 AM

-4/21/2014, 10:27 AM

He is risen -4/20/2014, 2:20 PM

Anti-Semitism alive, dangerous in America -4/20/2014, 2:19 PM

Abolition of teacher tenure out of place -4/20/2014, 2:19 PM

Library award-winning -4/20/2014, 2:19 PM

Equality in discipline -4/18/2014, 7:57 AM

Earth daze -4/18/2014, 7:57 AM

Equal pay -4/18/2014, 7:57 AM

Receiving great care -4/17/2014, 4:09 PM

Unequal pay among genders -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Fighting for Kansas veterans -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

School reductions -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Dress for safety -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Does losing due process create inadequacies? -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Hate crimes -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

On with the prom -4/15/2014, 8:57 AM

Newman proud to be in western Kansas -4/14/2014, 8:57 AM

Waiting on revenue estimates -4/13/2014, 8:57 AM

Wake up, people, and see the danger we’re in -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Patronizing paychecks -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Stripping of teachers’ due process worrisome -4/13/2014, 6:11 AM

The Kansas Ministry of Truth -4/13/2014, 6:14 AM

Letterman, Hillary and Jeb: 21st Century symbols -4/13/2014, 6:10 AM

Expensive school bill -4/13/2014, 6:12 AM

How to assist evil -4/11/2014, 9:15 AM

Taxing life away -4/11/2014, 9:12 AM

Lying about Obamacare -4/11/2014, 9:17 AM

The talk radio party? -4/10/2014, 11:04 AM

Term limits -4/10/2014, 11:06 AM

Let's do what we do best -4/10/2014, 11:05 AM

Satisfying the court -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Late-night funding fight -4/9/2014, 10:44 AM

‘Farmland’ — art is life on screen -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Tradition not changing -4/8/2014, 12:02 PM

Flat as a pancake -4/8/2014, 11:22 AM

Willing to take a bet -4/8/2014, 11:24 AM

Exposure to violence threatens children’s future -4/8/2014, 11:23 AM

Battling MS -4/7/2014, 8:58 AM

Why Renewable Fuel Standard matters -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Rites and wrongs of spring -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Coming to terms with Brownback -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Are 'religious viewpoint' laws needed in schools? -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

School non-funding -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Sex and race equality -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Rest of the story -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Bank on USPS to save 'bank deserts' -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Gambling and government -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Not merely water under the bridge -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Federal fine -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Twister time is here again -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

School funding battle continues -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

Watching for the flip-floppers -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Will Hays enter the 21st century? -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Tax breaks -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Hobby Lobby case a slippery slope -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Happy birthday, Gloria -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Unequal voting -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Protecting the pollinators -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Parties, politicians and seeking an advantage -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Healthy aging -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Threatened chicken -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

As temperatures rise, pay attention to stored grain -3/30/2014, 3:49 PM

Bizarre arguments and behavior -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

In your dreams -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

Against the wind -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Discovering the salt of the earth -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Entrepreneurship key to economic growth -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Get ready for Arbor Day -3/26/2014, 2:03 PM

Reading between the lines -3/26/2014, 2:02 PM

Switching parties -3/26/2014, 1:53 PM

Putting a price tag on damages -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Privately piercing, serious sacrifice -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Autism bill passes House -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

United stance -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Legislative session getting down to the end -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

Taxation bill involving livestock successful -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

STARBASE Day hits Topeka -3/24/2014, 10:13 AM

Judging based on accomplishments -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Who speaks for the voiceless? -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Fly Hays -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

Learning from the candidates -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

hedy -3/21/2014, 1:12 PM

-3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Fred Phelps -3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Is There Wage Stagnation? -3/20/2014, 9:58 AM

Cost of living, wages don't add up -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

Legislative proposal raises questions -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

No vote on war -3/19/2014, 3:32 PM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Examining the notion of a 'Christian nation'

Published on -8/11/2013, 1:55 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Culture warriors, pseudo-historians and opportunistic politicians have spent the last several decades peddling the myth that America was founded as a "Christian nation."

The propaganda appears to be working.

A majority of the American people (51 percent) believes that the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released last month by the First Amendment Center.

Because language about a Christian America has long been a staple of Religious Right rhetoric, it's not surprising that acceptance of this patently false interpretation of the Constitution is strongest among evangelicals (71 percent) and conservatives (67 percent).

But even many non-evangelical Christians (47 percent) and liberals (33 percent) appear to believe the fiction of a constitutionally mandated Christian America is historical fact.

Forgive me for being snippy, but read the Constitution.

Nowhere will you find mention of God, Christ or any intention to found a Christian nation.

On the contrary, the only reference to religion in the Constitution -- before the addition of the Bill of Rights -- comes in Article VI:

"No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

This means that political power in the United States may never be limited to people of one faith -- a necessary condition for a "Christian nation" -- but must be open to people of all faiths or none.

Barring a religious test for office sparked widespread outrage in 1787, especially in states with religious tests designed to make sure that only Protestants or Christians would ever be allowed to hold elected office.

But in their wisdom, the framers in Philadelphia knew that the time had come to break from the precedents of history and bar any religious group from ever imposing itself on the nation using the engine of government.

Even this wasn't good enough for Thomas Jefferson and other founders who wanted to prohibit any and all entanglement of government and religion in the new nation.

In 1791, the opening words of the First Amendment -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." -- were added to the Constitution, further ensuring a fully secular state with a guarantee of religious freedom for all.

Of course, some of the Founders (not unlike some Americans today) worried that "no establishment" might lead to a breakdown in Christian values in American culture. Alexander Hamilton, for example, contemplated the creation of a "Christian Constitutional Society" to promote Christian virtues and principles among the people.

But in spite of this anxiety, drafters of the Constitution took the radical step of founding the first nation in history with no established religion.

Truth be told, they had little choice.

Religious divisions among the many Protestant sects in 18th century America were deep and abiding. Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Congregationalists and many others fought bitterly over what it meant to be "Christian" -- although almost all could agree "Papists" (Roman Catholics) were followers of the anti-Christ.

In other words, religious diversity at America's founding made a necessity of religious freedom because no one group had the power or the numbers to impose its version of true faith -- Christian or otherwise -- on all others.

It is worth remembering, however, that principles as much as practical politics inspired many of our founders to define religious freedom as requiring no establishment of religion.

Roger Williams, to cite the earliest and best example, founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 out of his conviction that only by erecting a "wall or hedge of separation" between the "garden of the church" and "the wilderness of the world" would it be possible to protect liberty of conscience as required by God.

Religious freedom, Williams argued, is itself a Christian principle.

Any attempt to establish a Christian nation, therefore, always has been and always will be unjust, dangerous and profoundly un-Christian.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Education Project of the Washington-based Newseum Institute.

chaynes@newseum.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos