First I should probably clarify what I don’t mean by the title of this post. I’m not denying that the authors of the Constitution were mostly Christian. And I’m not denying that the majority of Americans are Christian and always have been.
What I’m attacking here is the idea that our laws and government are based on “Christian values” or “Judeo-Christian heritage” or any other vacuous phrase theocrats invent. And what’s more is that it’s very easy to determine that this was the clear intention of the people who founded the country.
Anyone can dig up diary entries and letters by individuals involved in the founding of America to sell whatever kind of historical interpretation they like. And there’s no shortage of people attempting to do that on this issue. But our country isn’t based on diary entries and letters. You kind of have to wonder why, if these people were so insistent that this be a “Christian nation,” they neglected to mention that fact anywhere at all in its founding charter.
There are, however, some mentions of religion itself in the Constition. Let’s go through all of them right now. It won’t take long.
Article VII, Section II
Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
This is followed by the signatures of the delegates.
This one I can cover pretty quickly. The day I’m writing this is Saturday, which is named after the Roman god of agriculture. Does the fact that I call it Saturday mean that I’m a pagan? “In the year of our Lord” was, and in some ways still is, a dating convention of the time. Even “AD” is still used often when people are talking about ancient history.
The Establishment Clause
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.
What I like about this one in this context is that it’s so clearly against the first of the Ten Commandments. In one the order is to not have any other gods before one in particular, and the other says that you can have other gods if you want. Killing people that don’t worship one specific god is a pretty extreme version of prohibiting the free exercise of religion. I can’t even believe this needs to be pointed out.
Article VI, Section III
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.
Now there are religious tests for public office in a pretty informal way here in the US in that most voters will take a candidates’ religious views into consideration when voting. But whatever those views are won’t officially disqualify anyone from holding whatever public office they like. That’s what this refers to, and we know this because unfortunately Jefferson’s attempts to develop an 18th century functioning MRI which could monitor voters’ religious feelings while they cast their ballot were eventually de-funded.
Article VI, Section II and the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11
These two tie together.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
So the important thing to remember about this is that treaties signed by the US are equal to the Constitution in that they are both “supreme Law of the Land.” That’s half of this particular argument. Now even if you’re not convinced by the earlier mentions of religion in the Constitution, we’d have to ask whether or not there are anything more specific in a treaty made by the United States, since that would clarify the issue of whether or not America is a Christian nation.
The very first treaty signed under the authority of the United States was the Treaty of Tripoli.
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.
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. It’s as if these guys are screaming from beyond their graves at Pat Robertson and similar douchenozzles that they’re wrong. But before you get all mad scientist-y and try to resurrect them for that purpose in a castle on a mountaintop during a thunderstorm, just remember that all we have to do to prove the “Christian nation” types wrong is to just go through our laws.