Letter: U.S. Not a ‘Christian Nation’
To the Editor:
The Sept. 23 letter from Michael W. Johnson of Fairlee made several statements that merit rebuttal. He wrote, “The First Amendment prohibits the government from enacting any law inimical to an establishment of religion.’ He stated that the word “religion” is singular (rather than collective,) and implied that it therefore must refer to Christianity. The actual wording of the First Amendment is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” According to Thomas Jefferson, one of its authors, this amendment created a “wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson’s interpretation has been a significant factor in all laws and court decisions that prevent the government from showing favoritism toward any religion.
Johnson’s letter also stated, “America was a nation of Christians founded by Christians for Christians.” Although the Founding Fathers were Christian, as opposed to any other organized religion, many of them (Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine, to name a few) were deists, who believed in the God of the natural world. Although they respected the teachings of Jesus Christ, they did not believe he was God, nor did they believe that our laws should be based on the Bible.
The Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797, states that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” There is no evidence that the senators who approved this treaty, many of whom were involved in passing the First Amendment six years earlier, did not believe this statement.
I also disagree with Johnson’s comments regarding natural law. We can’t see gravity and other natural forces, but they have been proven to exist by established scientific methods. Religious beliefs, in contrast, are by definition not provable, and without any parallel in natural law. The First Amendment has been protecting U.S. citizens from having religious laws and traditions imposed on them by the government since 1791. Let’s keep it that way, as our Founding Fathers intended.