Opinion | The Founding Fathers did not privilege Christianity – The Washington Post

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The July 8 Religion article “Hawley tweet sparks allegations of Christian nationalism” reported that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the United States was founded as a Christian nation. This nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, were based not on the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” but rather on the writings of Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke. The basic principles stated in those writings and adopted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, et al., include the establishment of governments based on a social contract; a set of universal rights of man, including equality of all men; and freedom of conscience.
Although the great majority of the earliest residents of what would become the United States had a Christian heritage, Christianity does not hold a privileged position within our form of government, as envisioned by the Founders. In particular, Rhode Island, a colony with a long history of religious tolerance, was the last holdout in signing on to the draft Constitution. When Jewish leaders there wrote to George Washington asking for assurance that this tolerance would carry over under the new Constitution, he replied that tolerance implies a privileged religion, with other groups being only tolerated. He firmly stated that all religions would be equal under the Constitution, with none holding a special place in the new democracy.
Mr. Hawley has conveniently ignored this fundamental position of our nation’s first president and other like-minded Founding Fathers.
Jerome Puskin, Potomac
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asserted falsely that a Founding Father said the United States was founded not only by Christians but also “on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Though it is true that the Founding Fathers largely subscribed to general Christian principles, it does not follow that they would endorse Mr. Hawley’s perspective. Consider:
The First Amendment explicitly provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Article VI of the Constitution specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required” for elective office. Both are inconsistent with the idea that the United States was founded “on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The separation of church and state embedded in the Constitution is needed precisely because of the example of elected officials such as Mr. Hawley who seek to override these protections and impose Christianity on a country in which millions practice a different faith (or no faith at all).
Chris Smith, Columbia


Written by: Christianity Today

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