Did America Have a Christian Founding?

Julia Shaw /

Holy Bible

Few historical questions generate as much controversy as this one—and do so on such a regular basis. Every few months or so, following some public pronouncement on America’s Christian roots or some court ruling pertaining to the First Amendment, the nation is subjected to a heated, but essentially sterile, debate on the Christian character of the American nation.

On the one side are those who view any mention of God in the public square as a dangerous threat to religious liberty and a veiled move to transform America into a theocracy. To make their case for a radical separation of religion and politics, they trot out the tired trope that the Founders were all deists, invoke the “godless Constitution,” and rummage through the Founders’ voluminous writing to find some quote that seems to buttress their case. The perennial favorite seems to be Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in which the President spoke of the “building of a wall separation between church and state.” (more…)