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Letter to the Editor, Knoxville News Sentinel, March 17, 2017 by member Ralph Isler

03/23/2017 2:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By design, US is not a Christian nation
Knoxville News Sentinel, March 17, 2017
By Ralph C. Isler, Oak Ridge

Is the United States a Christian country? A recent letter writer thinks it always has been a Christian nation. However, he fails to distinguish between the self-identification of individuals and the constitutional basis on which the republic rests. His identification of all the Founding Fathers as Christians is a simplistic assertion that disregards the deistic leanings and lack of belief in the divinity of Jesus that informed the outlooks of many. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was attacked vehemently as being an atheist by the Philadelphia clergy.

But even if we concede that most of these men had at least some nominal Christian affiliation, it only sharpens the distinction they wanted to maintain between individual conscience and a state-imposed religion. Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution contains any reference to Christianity. Even references to a god figure in the Declaration of Independence are couched only in vague, deistic terms. The Constitution explicitly prohibits the establishment of Christianity or any other religion by the government, and it prohibits religious tests for holding public office. Moreover, the original Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams and ratified unanimously by Congress in 1797, explicitly declared that “the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

So despite the fashionable promotion of “alternative facts” by conservative elements of American society, the United States is not now, and never has been, a Christian nation. Unlike theistic societies such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, we are still free to express our individual religious beliefs or disbeliefs.

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