John Fea's post (through Tom Van Dyke) on the persistence of religious tests during and after the American Founding certainly puts history into much needed context. America, at the state level, wasn't "secularized" when the US's mainly secular Constitution was ratified.
Below I offer something from George Washington for more context. For good or ill, this political-theological-historical (sometimes legal and philosophical) study in which we are involved gets invoked in modern day political-culture war battles. The "Christian America" side may read the history Dr. Fea uncovered (as I've seen them) as illustrating an "ideal" that Christian religious tests -- at the state level -- are an acceptable and/or desirable part of America's "Christian heritage." Religious tests were not implemented at the federal level, they note, because competition among the "Christian sects" made it impractical.
These same folks oft-hold President Washington out to be some kind of ideal "Christian statesman."
We've already seen Benjamin Rush, Ben Franklin and Richard Price criticize Pennsylvania's Christian religious test as "un-Declarational." And it should be noted that PA didn't abolish its Christian religious test but replaced it with one that was generically theistic (as I've noted before).
What follows -- and what hopefully complements my post on Rush, Franklin et al. -- is George Washington on Art. VI. Cl. 3., in a letter to the Swedenborgs on the matter.
What's notable about the SWEDENBORGS, as the recipients of Washington's letter:
"Christian Nationalists" like David Barton oft-argue America's political theology was "Christianity generally," not any kind of sectarian Christianity. Further, if they define it at all, "Christianity generally" means Sola-Scriptura or "the Bible says." Because evangelicals, as it were, disproportionately argue the "Christian Nation" thesis, they either 1) equate such "Christianity generally" with orthodox doctrines (with responses like "the Bible clearly teaches the Trinity, etc."; or 2) duck the question. (For instance, if one believes Mormonism meets the minimal definition of "Christianity," one gets a radically different understanding of "Christianity generally.") Likewise, they see Art. VI, Cl. 3 as reinforcing the "Christianity generally" thesis.
Note, there is Founding era rhetoric that supports the "Christianity generally" contention. However -- it's beyond the scope of this blogpost to argue the point sufficiently (perhaps I will in a published article or book) -- "Christianity generally," as Founding era political theology, by logical necessity transcends orthodox Trinitarian/Sola-Scriptura doctrine -- and morphs into something the orthodox deem "unitarian" or "theistic rationalist."
Case in point, as noted Christian Nationalists attempt to make Art. VI. Cl. 3 "fit" with their "general Christianity" thesis. Yet, as we will see below Washington held the Swedenborgs to be EQUALLY PROTECTED under Art. VI. Cl. 3. And the Swedenborgs 1) were not orthodox Trinitarians (they weren't unitarians either) and 2) weren't Sola-Scripturaists but added revelation to the Bible's text.
Also pay special attention to the way Washington discusses the no religious test clause. There is not a hint of "oh these things are just peachy, but at the state level," but rather sees banning religious tests, in principle, as laudably exemplifying the "enlightened Age...of equal liberty" that was the "boast" of the American Founding.
With that, here is the address:
To the members of the New Church at Baltimore.
It has ever been my pride to mind the approbation of my fellow citizens by a faithful and honest discharge of the duties annexed to those Stations to which they have pledged to place me; and the dearest rewards of my Services have been those testimonies of esteem and confidence with which they have honored me. But to the manifest interpretation of an over-ruling Providence, and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth.
We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age & in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets, will not forfeit his protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
Your Prayers for my present and future felicity were received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities, taste those blessings which a gracious God bestows upon the Righteous.