Evidence for America's Christian Heritage
In the debate over the so-called “separation of Church and State” versus America as a Christian nation, we have to look at our Founding Fathers and the facts of history to see the truth about America's Christian heritage. While it is certainly true that our Founding Fathers did not intend for America to be established as a Christian nation in the same way Iran, for example, is established as a Muslim nation, they did intend for America to promote, endorse and encourage Christianity. The very people who wrote, signed and ratified the Constitution also used the Federal government, it's land and resources to promote Christianity. Of course, many people today attempt to deny these facts and will sometimes use deception or Straw Man arguments instead of looking at the actual evidence.
The 1st Amendment of the Constitution deals with religion this way: It reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,...”. So what does that mean? Conservative judges (and I would argue, common sense) would say that means Congress is not allowed to pass a law that would establish an official State religion and also that they can not prohibit people from freely expressing their faith. Liberal judges however, have interpreted the 1st Amendment to mean that no government employees, dollars or land can be used to promote any religious expression at all. So how do we figure out whose interpretation is correct? I'm thinking that the people who would know best what the Founding Father's intentions were would be.......the Founding Fathers themselves. So let's go to them.
Fisher Ames is considered by many to be the author of the 1st Amendment. As our Founding Fathers were debating the drafting of the Bill of Rights, he is the Congressman who came up with the language of the 1st Amendment, so logic dictates that if anyone understood what the words meant, it would be him. (Remember that, you'll see why in a minute). After the Constitution was ratified, some public schools started using more and more books to teach the children, in addition to the Bible. While the Bible was continuing to be taught in the public schools, a trend was developing of introducing more and more secular books into the classroom. One of the Founding Fathers who expressed concern over this trend was.....you guessed it, Fisher Ames who stated: “...we have a dangerous trend beginning to take place in our education....We've become accustomed of late to putting little books in the hands of children containing fables with moral lessons. We are spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principle text in our schools. The Bible states these great moral lessons better than any other man made book.” In one of my radio debates with the ACLU, I remember saying “Fisher Ames, the author of the 1st Amendment said the Bible should be taught in schools, but you say a teacher even having an open Bible on her desk is a violation of the 1st Amendment, so I'm curious.....who do you think knows more about the 1st Amendment, the guy who WROTE it, or the ACLU, 200 years later? I couldn't believe my ears when the ACLU actually said to me “we do”. They actually said that.
Most people don't even know that the term “Separation of Church and State” does not exist anywhere in the Constitution. That term was used by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut on January 1, 1802. Liberal judges and lawyers lately have seized on that one phrase he used that one time in that personal letter to create a false perception of what the Constitution actually says. Jefferson wrote that letter to the Danbury Baptists in response to a letter they first wrote him on October 7, 1801, expressing concern that the government might try to infringe on religious freedoms one day. His response letter attempted to assure them that would not happen because there was a “wall of separation between Church and State”. He used those words for the first time to say there was a wall keeping the government from infringing on religious expression. He wasn't saying the government can't itself engage in religious expression. Let me prove it.
Remember, Jefferson first used those words in that personal letter on January 1, 1802, while he was President. On December 3, 1803, nearly 2 years AFTER he wrote that letter, President Jefferson, as an official Presidential act, ordered the extension of the 1787 Act of Congress that designated areas of Federal land “for the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren Missionaries for the civilizing of the Indians and promoting Christianity”. That's right, the actual language that Jefferson ordered to take place was “promoting Christianity” by the Federal Government. He ordered the same governmental promotion of Christianity to the Wyandotte Indians in 1806 and even again in 1807 to the Cherokee Indians. So ask yourself logically, when Thomas Jefferson used those words “separation of Church and State” in that letter, do you really he meant a Nativity Scene can't sit on government property or a judge can't hang a picture of the 10 Commandments on his wall? As President, Jefferson ordered 3 times that federal land be used for (in the official language) “promoting Christianity”.
In the many debates I've had with groups like the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, American Atheists and others, I've noticed a common debate tactic they've used time and time again. When confronted with the actual facts of America's Christian heritage, they find themselves backed into a corner, and then, in an attempt to fight back, they start attacking the personal faith of the Founding Fathers to show how their theology was wrong, how they were hypocrites by owning slaves, etc. While these ad hominem attacks might confuse some debate listeners, they are merely diversionary tactics that have no relevance on the central question.....does the Constitution call for a separation of Church and State, yes or no? The answer, of course, is no, and the evidence proves that.
The purpose of this article is to give just some of the factual evidence showing our Founding Fathers believed in a BLENDING of Church and State, not a separation. It's purpose is NOT to claim the Founding Fathers were perfect Christians. Obviously, they were not, as they owned slaves and broke treaties with the Indians. While these things may very well have seemed acceptable to them at the time in light of their culture, we clearly see today that they were misguided. Even the theology of some of our Founding Fathers was suspect. Just as we have Christian leaders today who hold certain theological positions we would disagree with, the same holds true of our Founding Fathers. While many were, in fact, doctrinally sound Christians, some were not. Some were Deists, for example, so remember, don't let someone try to force you into a debate on whether the Founding Fathers were perfect examples of Christianity in their theology or in their personal lives. That's not the debate. The debate is whether the Constitution forbids, for example, a High School football coach from praying with his team before a game because the government supposedly “can't promote or endorse religion”.
There are countless examples in history of America promoting Christianity and you can hear many of them in the Top Ten Proofs for America's Christian Heritage. For example, did you know that on October 18, 1780 the United States Congress issued an official Proclamation of Thanksgiving and Prayer, calling on America “to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread all over the Earth”? When liberal attorneys and Judges claim a “Constitutional Separation of Church and State” exists, they are literally denying America's Christian Heritage and the true history of our Christian nation and it's Founding Fathers.