Friday, July 05, 2013

About that "Christian Nation", thing.

The next time someone tells you that the Founders meant for this country to be a "Christian Nation", ask them one question.

"Which Christian Denomination?"

The specific religious affiliations of the Founders is not something that, surprisingly enough, has gotten a lot of attention or research.  There has been some, and at least most of them have been tentatively identified.  Following is a list of the known affiliations.

Church of England
Yeah, I know, Protestant is pretty much a catch-all for most of them, but I assume the authors of the web site I found the list on (Separation of church and state homepage) have some explanation for including it as a separate item on the list.

 It is, according to the site, a work in progress, and is noted to be incomplete.

However, it is a fairly good indication of the diversity of Christian belief in the colonies, especially the leadership.  Which brings me to my point.

The men who founded this country came from a wide variety of backgrounds, education and professions.  They ranged from as far north as Maine and as far south as the Carolinas.  Men who believed in the equality of man and those who gladly enslaved their fellow man.  Many of them were vehemently opposed to the denominations of some of the other men with whom they sat down to craft a  Constitution.

All of them had one overriding commonality:  They opposed British tyranny, and wanted to get out from under the economic thumb of the British East India Company, which enjoyed a vast amount of influence with the Crown.  They also had another commonalty:  They each wanted to keep their churches running and free of official meddling and obstruction.

Since many of them were educated enough to know the recent history of Europe and the state of religious and dictatorial tyranny therein, when they began crafting the Bill of Rights, they put the most important elements of freedom in the very first Amendment.

Freedom of religion
Freedom of the press
Freedom of speech
Freedom of association
Redress of grievances

These are the ones with wide general application, which the Founders obviously felt were the most critical in maintaining the freedom and liberty of the people.

Notice that freedom of religion came first.

Notice that the Constitution which they crafted only mentions religion twice, including the Bill of Rights.  First to disallow a religious test for office, which prevents a person from being kept out of office because of his or her religious affiliation, or put there because of it.

The second was the Amendment which prevents Congress from passing laws respecting the establishment of religion or preventing its free exercise.  Notice that this has two clauses.

The first is the "establishment" clause.  This prevents Congress from favoring one religion over another.  The second is the "Free Exercise" clause.  This guarantees every resident of the US the right to freely exercise his religious activities without government interference.

You see, the words "government interference" are key to understanding this amendment.  The government can interfere by either making you adhere to certain religious rites, or by preventing you from adhering to your own preferred activities.  Of course, over the past 237 years, the Supreme Court has weighed in and provided some guidance, much of it to the effect of clarifying some of the conditions to which these things apply.

For instance, a biggie is prayer in schools.  SCOTUS has noted that school children, by their young age and vulnerability, are particularly susceptible to the ministrations of adults, therefor, they have erected special protections here.

But even so, while a publicly owned and operated school may not lead children to and guide them through a prayer or religious ceremony, the children themselves are fully allowed, as is their right, to pray on their own.

Federal courts have prevented Creationism from being taught in public schools for the same reason.  Because it is a religious teaching, the GOVERNMENT cannot cause it to be taught.  Private schools may teach whatever they wish in this regard, but not GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS.

Christians who wish to push their religion into public venues overseen by government entities are not exercising their freedom, they are encroaching on ours, by causing that government entity to push a particular religious ceremonial on those who may not believe according to that manner of worship.

Again, when someone says that this country is a Christian nation, ask them WHICH Christianity?  Lutheran?  Episcopalian?  Evangelical?  Catholic?  Huguanot?  Westboro Baptist?  Eastern Orthodox? How about the Solid Rock Congregation of God?  Or maybe it should be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?

I could go on, there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations around the world.

If you want a Theocracy in the US, WHICH ONE is your choice?

To everybody who doesn't belong to yours, it matters a great deal.

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