Over at Reason, Cathy Young is a thinker after my own heart. She discusses the Texas Republican Party’s error in asserting that the United States is a “Christian Nation” (or as she elaborates, what they mean when they state the US is a “Christian Nation” is erroneous). Young also references episodes of both The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes that dealt with this exact issue. I saw both and immediately had the same reaction that Young so eloquently puts into words. As you see, she analyzes this in the exact way that I or Ed Brayton would:
On Hannity & Colmes, [guest host] Gallagher asserted that the plank was a simple statement of a numerical fact. "If a neighborhood had 82 percent of the population that was Italian or a town had 82 percent of the population that was Polish, we'd call those communities Italian or Polish towns. So why do liberals have such a knee-jerk reaction when anybody dares to suggest that with 82 percent of the population being Christian—we are, in fact, a Christian nation?"
Well, for one, if a town council passed a resolution affirming that it was an Italian or Polish town, there'd be a strong reaction, too. Such a resolution would be perceived as a clear statement that members of other ethnic groups are not welcome.
If we're going by the numbers, why not have a party platform asserting that the United States is "a white nation"? After all, 77 percent of Americans are white.
As for the plank's historical aspects, few would dispute that Christianity has played a central role in American history and culture. But the foundation of the American political system rests at least in equal measure on the secular philosophy of the Enlightenment.
On Hannity & Colmes, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the prominent evangelical leader, asserted that it is precisely because America is a Christian nation that Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist Americans enjoy the freedom they do. That statement, however, reeks of ignorance: Plenty of Christian nations have had a sad record of religious intolerance and persecution. America's religious freedom is the product of a unique blend of Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment values; as Susan Jacoby documents in her recent book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, tension between these two strands of our culture has persisted throughout our history.