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Was the United States Founded as a Christian Nation?

March 22nd, 2024

While America is not a Christian Nation from a constitutional standpoint, the drumbeat of those arguing otherwise is getting louder.
While America is not a Christian Nation from a constitutional standpoint, the drumbeat of those arguing otherwise is getting louder.

Ask any constitutional scholar about America’s official religion, and they will likely tell you that it has none. This is, of course, written into the Constitution, and since its inception, the government has been very careful to separate church and state. However, not everyone agrees with this time-honored principle – and some argue that the Founding Fathers fully intended to create a Christian nation. These ideas are becoming more commonplace – but are they true? Is there a factual, historical basis for these assertions?

Evidence that the Founding Fathers Intended to Create a Christian Nation

First, let us examine the arguments set forth by proponents of the Christian nation theory. Most point out that the Founding Fathers all followed some form of faith. That being said, these religious views are often referred to as “Deism” or “Unitarianism.” That is to say, they believed in the general principles of Christianity without adhering to specific doctrines of certain faiths. 

Many have also pointed to Christian quotes from various Founding Fathers. John Adams once said: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” Thomas Jefferson stated: “The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain.” One of the most convincing quotes comes from Noah Webster, who once said: “The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws.”

Perhaps a more convincing argument comes not from the United States Constitution but rather from the individual Constitutions of specific states. Virtually every single state mentioned God or Christianity at least once, suggesting that the writers of these Constitutions clearly intended for Christianity to play a major role in the governance of each state. When you consider the fact that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Republic of individual States rather than a federal government per se, this argument is even more convincing. 

Arguments Against Christianity as a State Religion

Of course, there are many convincing arguments against the idea that America was founded as a Christian state. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that the Constitution fails to mention God or Christianity. In addition, it specifically states that the United States should have no national religion and that religious belief should not be administered as a test of citizenship. 

In addition, numerous Founding Fathers specifically stated that the United States should not be a religious state. George Washington made this very clear in written statements, and Dr. Benjamin Rush explained: “I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration.” Thomas Jefferson seemed to think any government effort to control religious beliefs was “tyranny over the mind of man.”

There was also the Treaty of Tripoli from 1797. Article 11 of the treaty stated: “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, religious or tranquility of Musselmen…”

It May Not Matter What the Founding Fathers Intended

At the end of the day, it might not really matter what the Founding Fathers intended. The United States will become whatever the people want it to become. Individual states can pass their own laws respecting or disrespecting Christian values. Although such laws may be challenged in Federal Court, the current makeup of the Supreme Court is such that “Christian values” tend to dominate.

Each month, various cases test the nature of religious rights in this country. While the basis for many religious rights is the United States Constitution, there are still countless cases that question the exact nature of these rights. The Universal Life Church’s blog is focused on documenting the most noteworthy of these cases in an objective manner that can be easily understood by readers.

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