Myth: The Founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian republic.
Fact: If the Founders had wanted a Christian republic, they would have made one.
If the Founders had intended this to be a Christian Republic, they
would not have separated Church and State in the constitution. Besides,
many of the founders were Deists or atheists, not Christians; it would
have been impossible for them to intend a Christian Republic.
The First Amendment states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"
Article VI, Section 3 of the constitution also states:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of
the several State Legislatures, and all executive and
judicial officers, both 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."
By now virtually everyone knows the argument that making the United
States a Christian republic would violate the First Amendment rights of
Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, atheists, agnostics, etc. But fewer people
realize that it would also violate the First Amendment rights of Christians
as well. Which of the 2,500 Christian denominations would we choose as
the Christian orthodoxy upon which to base the republic? Seventh-day Adventists
and Catholics are complete opposites to each other, and, in fact, are sworn
enemies. Thus, a Christian Republic would certainly involve a small minority
forcing its views on the majority.
Be that as it may, did the Founders actually intend for Christianity
to play a greater role in our society than it has? Prior to the constitution,
11 of 13 states had religious qualifications for public office. These were
limited to Christians only, and sometimes even Protestants only. However,
the Constitutional Convention voted down such qualifications, creating
the separation of church and state that we find in the First Amendment
today. If this is not proof of the Founders intentions, then what is?
One should remember that the Founders lived in the 18th
century, just as the horrors of the Inquisition were winding down. Anyone
who overly opposed the Roman Catholic Church was arrested by the Inquisition
as a heretic. They were tortured until they confessed their guilt, then
handed over to the state for execution. The state, in full partnership
with the church, would then prove its loyalty by carrying out the execution.
Those Founders who were Christians were Protestants, and had they lived
in Europe they would have been persecuted by the Inquisition. It was this
identification with "heretics" that compelled them to build "a
wall of separation between Church and State."
This famous phrase was coined by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to
the Danbury Baptists:
"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between
man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his
worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only,
and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the
whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and
State." -- Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802.
Some Christians have tried to argue that this wall is "one-way,"
that the state may not interfere with religion, but religion may interfere
with the state. However, this is an impossibility, since by definition
any control that a denomination achieves over the state will automatically
become state infringement on the religious rights of others.
Besides, many of the Founders were hardly Christians. There were several
Deists, most prominent among them Thomas Jefferson. Deism rejected formal
or organized religion, including Christianity; it taught that people should
depend on human reasoning, not revealed truths, to discern what is true
in the world. Deism rejected the divinity of Jesus and ascribed his miracles
and resurrection to "mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods" (Jefferson's
Another standout is Benjamin Franklin. The body of his work strongly
suggests that he was an atheist. Like most atheist politicians since, Franklin
was not so impolitic as to broadcast this fact. He sometimes evoked Providence
or God in his speeches, ever mindful of his Christian audiences. But anyone
familiar with Franklin's writings knows of his true philosophy towards
Thus, the fact that not all the Founders were Christians, and that
they actually removed a widespread Christian qualification for office
in the U.S. constitution, proves that the Founders did not intend this
to be a Christian republic.
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