Thursday, February 24, 2005

Christian Nation

Over at The Nation, Brooke Allen has written a splendid exegesis of just how not-Christian our country was meant to be.

As Allen points out, God is not mentioned once in the Constitution itself, and only twice in the Declaration, with neither mention being definitely Christian: “a reference to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God," and the famous line about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

Allen goes on to outline, in admirable detail, exactly why the Far Right Christians are wrong to claim that this was ever meant to be a Christian nation, including this bit:

In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

As the Government of the United not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.

Allen also gives the source of many of the Far Right’s favorite quotations, including the famous “separation of church and state,” and Jefferson’s statement that the “Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man” (it’s a joke, folks!).

Excellent piece of work.

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