Always the Claim…
There’s a Bible-reading marathon going on at the west lawn of the US Capitol, leading up to a national day of prayer (a day inaugurated by Truman), a natural setting for the fundies to press their agenda and try to get religion impressed on our secular government. Here’s the claim:
Critics say that evangelical groups and their allies in Congress are staging events like the Bible Marathon near centers of power as a bid to link secular Washington to Christian ideals. Supporters say they’re simply trying to remind people of the important role that faith played in America’s founding. …
“The Bible had a huge impact on the signers of the Constitution,” says Barton, who says he has led hundreds of members of Congress on his Spiritual Heritage Tour of the Capitol. With the change in House leadership from Tom DeLay to Rep. John Boehner (R) of Ohio, “I’m not sure how many of our ideas will be included,” he adds.
Now, read that article carefully, and see if you can find out where it is detailed exactly how Christianity had a “huge impact” on the founders. Can’t find it? Neither could I.
I’ve heard these claims a lot, but never hear any specific evidence. If you do, it’ll probably be in the form of a weak statement to the effect of, “people were religious in those times,” or “several state constitutions before 1776 included mention of Christianity,” or even “Christianity inspired our laws and the Constitution.” They’ll probably point out how God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and then reiterate the tired old trifecta of “In God We Trust/One Nation, Under God/So Help Me God.”
What they won’t mention is that the Declaration of Independence is not law, but a statement from the people; that the Constitution, the actual high law of the land, mentions religion only once, and only then to state that no religious oath shall be required to take office. They’ll mangle the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to claim that it means that Congress is restricted from creating a religion on its own and that Congress is prohibited from messing with the church, but the church is fully empowered to mess with government (as if the two are not essentially the same thing). They won’t mention that the trifecta wasn’t originally part of the plan, and that coinage, the pledge, and official oaths didn’t mention God early on, that religious incursions late in the game inserted those mentions of God, against tradition.
It’s funny how these groups claim to be all about history, but they ignore the most glaring and obvious historical fact that completely destroys they legitimacy of their goal to integrate church and state: the religious foundations of this country were established by people fleeing from Europe because their religions were persecuted by states where one religious body merged with the state and controlled or persecuted all other religious factions.
Oh yeah, remember that? Remember how we studied in school about how Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers, who were persecuted by state religions back in England and even the new colonies, with members beaten, imprisoned, or killed? Remember the story of the Puritans and the Mayflower? Remember why they came here? Let’s see, it had something to do with, um, I don’t know, maybe… persecution by the state religion of England?
SusanG over at DKos made the correct observation: the “huge impact” that Christianity had on our founding fathers was that a secular state was the greatest guarantee of religious freedom we could hope for, and the intrusion of religion upon our government would signal the death of religious freedom in this country.
Sometimes I don’t know if the fundies who constantly press for merging religion and state are just ignorant of this fact, or if they are well aware and their intention is simply to become that one controlling religion that gets to persecute all the others.