The United States of America is not a Christian nation, legally or constitutionally. Although most of our founders were religious people, they did not want to impose their own religion by law on others. The founders thought a religious citizenry was important to good government but did not intend to set up a Christian regime under our founding documents. The four most important documents from our early history – the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution – disprove any religious bias. They unambiguously prove our secular origins.
What we have in America is a constitutional democracy in which all religious beliefs are protected. The same Constitution that refuses to privilege any religion, including Christianity, protects all religions and the right of other American citizens to claim no religious beliefs at all. As a result, we are a nation of Christians sociologically because we are not a Christian nation constitutionally.
Two letters published in the Aiken Standard on Sept. 13 attempt to point out that we do not have a real separation of church and state in America because such words are not written in the Constitution. True, the exact words are not there but the principle is. One might try to make the specious argument that constitutional principles depend solely on the use of certain words. Yet, who would deny that “federalism,” “separation of powers” and the “right to a fair trial” are constitutional principles? None of these words appear in the Constitution either.
The separation of church and state, or the “wall of separation,” is simply a metaphor, which represents the expression of a deeper truth that religious liberty is best protected when church and state are institutionally separated; and neither one tries to perform or interfere with the essential mission and work of the other. So, while the words “wall of separation between church and state” do not literally appear in the Constitution, the concept of church-state separation certainly does. If anyone doubts this, they should read the writings of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and generations of U.S. Supreme Court justices who were tasked with interpreting and applying the Constitution.
Jan A. Radder