Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Christian Nation Movement

A friend recently sent us a blog item about the “The Christian Nation Movement.”
Pat Robertson has often commented that the phrase "separation of church and state" appears in the Soviet not the United States Constitution and that "our judicial establishment [has successfully imposed] the Soviet strictures on the United States." While Robertson's views were once on the fringe of the Republican Party, today they are echoed by Republican leaders such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Conference Chairman Rick Santorum.

The Republicans are actively seeking to implement their vision of a Christian nation through programs such as the Faith-Based Initiative which seeks to expand the role of faith-based organizations ("FBOs") in providing federally funded social services. In implementing this program, the Bush administration removed several constitutionally required safeguards (e.g., allowing federal funds to build religious structures) and limited oversight to "self-audits". Not surprisingly, courts have found a number of grants to FBOs, such as a grant to instruct nursing students on the use of prayer as a therapeutic practice, to be unconstitutional.

Christian nation advocates should leave their red state cocoon and stand on the banks of theProvidence River. For this is where Roger Williams, who had been banished from Massachusetts by the Puritans for his religious views, founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 based on his vision that there should be a "wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world,'" and that religious freedom must extend to all and not just Christians. As a result of Williams' vision, Rhode Island became known as "the safest refuge of conscience" and home to the New World's first Baptist Church and synagogue.

The seed sown by Williams ultimately blossomed into the First Amendment, which in the words of Thomas Jefferson prohibits Congress from enacting any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state." While it is true that the actual phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the First Amendment, the concept was invoked by the First Amendment's author, James Madison, who explained that "[t]he purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries." The Founders also addressed the Christian nation question in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed under President Washington and ratified under President Adams, which states that "the Government of the United States of Americais not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

You can read the entire article here.