In these intellectual battles over religion and government a few friends have cautioned me not to get carried away with knocking down certain figures like David Barton, who are straw men. More serious arguments have been made by respected scholars like Philip Hamburger.
There is an inchoate tendency, in legal thinking, to want to punish people for making bad arguments. But judges are supposed to follow the law nonetheless. For instance, the laughable arguments made in the "Christian Nation" briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in the recent case attempting to demonstrate that the Ten Commandments are the Foundation of US Law and that the Decalogue gave rise to the Declaration of Independence. If the outcomes of the Ten Commandments cases turned on that being true, then the decisions would be easy slam dunks for the other side. But that's not the way constitutional law works.
So with a grain of salt, I'll point you to one of the most laughable "Christian Nation" articles I've yet to see published by of course, WND.
The article begins by deeming "The Separation of Church and State" a
lie...spread by theophobic atheists, neo-pagan fascists, radical liberals, socialists, Marxists, anti-Christian bigots, sexual perverts, Christophobic politicians and journalists, and other such people who wish to obliterate the European Christian foundation on which America was built...
and gets worse from there. I don't have the time or interest in refuting the entire thing. Just read my blog and all of the refutations are found in past posts. I will, for the fun of it, point out a few of the article's absurdities.
First the author, Tom Snyder, says,
Jefferson was not, however, saying that the First Amendment prevents the Congress from declaring Christianity in general as the official religion of the United States.
Not only did the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution not declare Christianity in general as the official religion of the United States, but as far as Congress is concerned, in 1797 (certainly part of the Founding era) they ratified the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by the Adams administration, which expressly declared that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." The unamended Constitution only refers to religion once in Article VI, stating "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." And of course we have the First Amendment which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."
What's the point of all this? Not to prove that the ACLU's absolutist notion of a Wall of Separation reflects the Founders' original intent, but rather to demonstrate that the text of the Constitution seems to indicate the United States was founded, in principle, to have a religiously neutral government. Deriving from the text of the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence that our Founders intended the US to be founded as a "Christian Nation" in a public sense is, in the words of Leonard Levy about "as valid as reading the entrails of a chicken for the meaning of the establishment clause or for portents of the future." p. 80.
The article further claims that
the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly Christian men who used their Christian beliefs to found a Christian nation....[I]n the text, the Constitution clearly says "in the year of Our Lord." This is a direct reference to the Christian doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. It is an indirect reference to the concept of the Holy Trinity that can be found in Matthew 28:18-20 in the New Testament documents!
So the customary way of stating the date in the Constitution magically transforms the document into a Trinitarian Christian document. This guy really doesn't want to get into the Trinity/Unity debate. The majority of key founders were militant unitarians, three of them, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin made up a majority of the Declaration of Independence's drafting board. As I noted in this post, John Adams stated in a personal letter to Jefferson that the very theory upon which our government was built -- "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" -- revealed God to be unitarian!
So you have to wonder how this guy is going to address Article VI of the Constitution which states, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
In Article VI, the Constitution also requires elected and appointed officials, including members of the Supreme Court, to take an oath of office. According to M.E. Bradford in "Original Intentions," at the time the Constitution was written, to take an oath of office was to swear publicly by Almighty God. That is one reason the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution felt it unnecessary to require elected officials to also take a religious test in order to run for office. Why take a religious test when you have already sworn by God to uphold a document that expresses an explicit belief in the Christian Trinity?
Isn't it funny how the "original intent" of the Founders reveals the Constitution to mean the exact opposite of what the text of the document states. So now, "no religious test shall ever be required" in reality means that you are taking an oath to Trinitarian Christianity. Isn't it further ironic that if one had to be a Trinitarian Christian in order to hold public office, the first four Presidents, and many other key founders, would be disqualified.
But he's not done with the "religious tests" clause yet,
David Barton shows in "Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion" that the idea of having no religious test meant only that the federal government could not force political candidates to become members of one Protestant denomination. Thus, when the Constitution forbids making a religious test, it did not mean that candidates must be non-Christians. It meant they could be Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, or a member of any other orthodox Christian denomination.
Another textbook case of attempting to use "original intent" to contradict the TEXT of the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't say, "no religious test among the various Protestant sects shall ever be required, but one may still be required to believe in the Truth of Trinitarian Christianity or Christianity in general." Rather the Constitution says, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
In any event, his argument from original intent is wrong: The text clearly forbids any kind of religious test oaths including ones which would require generic beliefs in the Christian religion and the Founders understood this. In fact, many religious fundamentalists during the time of the Framing argued against the Constitution precisely because it forbade such religious tests!
For instance, a North Carolina minister, in his state's ratification debate, noted that Article VI was "an invitation for Jews and pagans of every kind to come among us." At the Massachusetts convention, one speaker noted that unless the President was forced to take a religious oath, "a Turk, a Jew, a Roman Catholic, and what is worse than all, a Universalist, may be President of the United States."
The article concludes:
Let us return to the Christian vision of our Founding Fathers. Let us free all Americans from their ignorance of the Christian heritage that formed this once-mighty nation!
Yes, let us return to the militant anti-Trinitarianism and anti-Calvinism of Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. Let us return to the Freemasonry of George Washington, a man who systematically avoided referencing Christ in his public statements, a man accused of being a deist by his own Church's ministers and who used to get up and walk out of Church before they served communion. Let us return to the vision of James Madison who said:
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together;