The Herald Bulletin

May 18, 2013

Letter to the editor: Constitution not a Christian document

The Herald Bulletin

— If a Christian document had been the goal of the framers, that sentiment would have been explicitly included in the Constitution.

Once again, letter writer Michael Imhof is wrong! The opposite is our history. The framers wrote the Constitution as a secular document because they did not want to imply that the federal government would have any authority to meddle in religion.

Imhof incorrectly claims that “established religion” was a fact in all “13 states”. Not so! Due to word count, I’ll focus on only Rhode Island, the only colony in which all Christian sects enjoyed “liberty in religious concernments,” as the charter put it, including the liberty to vote, whether a church member or not (Pennsylvania, too).

Contrary to Imhof’s claim, it is entirely appropriate to speak of the constitutional principle of church-state separation since that phrase summarizes what the First Amendment’s religion clauses really do — they separate church and state — not because Christ made it possible to do so (but not necessary to do so), but because the framers rejected Catholic political philosophy. They chose John Locke, and he required separation of church-state to avoid wars of religion by taking the edge off politics.

The Supreme Court got it right in 1879; that is, Thomas Jefferson had it right, so they decided. And in 1947, the court actually used the phrase “separation of church and state,” upholding the 1879 precedent.

The most orthodox Christian framers are not counted among the famous founders. Like today, they were considered too heterodox back then.

Bill J. Paschal