In a post from yesterday, Shall Christianity Be Enshrined as the U.S. State Religion?, I pointed out that Trump’s top-list candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, is living a life dedicated to transforming the United States into a “Kingdom of God.” I base that not on some unsupported inference, but on something she said, i.e., “(A) legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.”
I went on to explain why I believe this to be dangerous in the extreme, i.e., that we live in a constitutionally guided federal republic that is extremely clear about the separation of church and state. It’s probably the single most important precept that informs our law-making and our society at large.
Here’s a subsequent conversation with a reader who commented:
Reader: It’s my impression that our country was founded on Christian principles. I hope you are not suggesting that all references to God be abolished in federal business. If so I think you have many many people who would disagree.
Craig: Let me begin by saying that your impression is incorrect. From this document:
The U.S. Constitution is a wholly secular document. It contains no mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ. In fact, the Constitution refers to religion only twice in the First Amendment, which bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and in Article VI, which prohibits “religious tests” for public office. Both of these provisions are evidence that the country was not founded as officially Christian.
The Founding Fathers did not create a secular government because they were well aware of the dangers of church-state union. They had studied and even seen first-hand the difficulties that church-state partnerships spawned in Europe. During the American colonial period, alliances between religion and government produced oppression and tyranny on our own shores.
Respect for religious pluralism gradually became the norm. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, for example, he spoke of “unalienable rights endowed by our Creator.” He used generic religious language that all religious groups of the day would respond to, not narrowly Christian language traditionally employed by nations with state churches.
…. Washington’s administration negotiated a treaty with the Muslim rulers of north Africa that stated explicitly that the United States was not founded on Christianity. The pact, known as the Treaty with Tripoli, was approved unanimously by the Senate in 1797, under the administration of John Adams. Article 11 of the treaty states, “[T]he government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion….”
I would also argue that there is a difference between being committed to a faith, and working to refashion this country according to that faith, i.e., theocracy.
This, btw, is the principal difference between the Western and Middle Eastern world. In the 18th Century Europe and the United States went through the Age of Reason, aka the Enlightenment, under the influence of John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith and Jean Jacquez Rousseau. The key result here was that religion was separated from government, setting the stage for the French Revolution, the U.S. Constitution, and the positioning of science above superstition, which led to later progress in the form of women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc. The Islamic world had no such event, and that’s the basis on which women in Iran are flogged for attending birthday parties without authorization, and punishments including amputation and blinding are commonplace.