Independence Day is Not a Religious Holiday, Nor is the United States a Christian Nation.

One_Nation“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” – The Treaty of Tripoli

The Treaty of Tripoli was submitted to the Senate by  President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797. It was then signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

Today is Independence Day here in the United States.  Unfortunately, many of our citizens have little or no understanding of the purpose behind the American Revolutionary War. They do not understand why we endured those bloody battles or the reason we decided that we could no longer be part of the Monarchy of United Kingdom in its form at the time. There are many in this country that have either chosen to ignore, were taught incorrectly or simply were never told why we felt it mandatory to dissolve our connection to the British Monarchy and its history of repeated violations to the basic human rights of those under its rule.

Crown Royal…

Perhaps these people need to be reminded that those under Crown rule at that time were the subjects of absolute tyranny, and that the Monarchy was hostile to what was wholesome and necessary for  the public good. Perhaps they forgot that the residents of the original thirteen colonies were denied protection unless they agreed to relinquish the right of  representation. Perhaps they forgot how fortunate we are to have a representative government that checks and balances itself and does not allow for entire legislative bodies to be relieved of their duties because they are not in agreement with a supreme ruler. Perhaps they do not realize what it meant to be under martial law, even in times of peace, and that the members of a standing army were held immune to prosecution no matter how heinous the crimes against the Subjects of the Crown were.

Contrary to what many believe, the American Revolution was not about taxes alone and it had nothing at all to do with establishing a Christian nation. As the Declaration so aptly states, it was about being deprived of such things as the benefits of trial by jury, for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and  altering fundamentally the forms government without any input from the people.  It was about the Crown suspending it’s own legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate in all cases whatsoever. It was about the ability of the Monarchy to wage war on it’s own citizens and, without reservation, to plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, and  destroy the lives of our ancestors without any judicial or legislative regulation.

Grievances…

GeorgeIIIThe list of charges levied toward the Monarchy, and specifically King George III, in the body of the Declaration are numerous and largely unknown by our own citizenry. The crimes against humanity that were committed by the Crown were egregious and many. But instead of recognizing the Declaration of Independence as an important document stating our insistence to individual freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it has been relegated by the religious right as a weapon to promote their desire to bring the United States back to a form of government that is almost identical to the one we originally fought so hard to be free of. The sole purpose of the Declaration was to “dissolve the  political bands,” not to set up a religious nation. Its authority is based on the idea  that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers  from the consent of the governed,” which is contrary  to the biblical  concept of the Theocracy that the Religious Right would impose upon us.

Fundamentalist Christians work hard to convince us that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on  “biblical  principles.” History does not support this. Aside from the fact that a vast majority of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not bible-believing Christians, we are governed by the Constitution, which is a secular document and very purposely begins with “We the people” and of equal purpose does not contain any mention of God or Christianity.  Its only references to religion are exclusionary and the very first amendment made to our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an  establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In fact, the presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the  Constitution, does not contain the phrase “so help me God” or any  requirement to swear on a bible

Tripoli Expanded…

The 1797 Treaty with Tripoli  declares that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense,  founded on the Christian religion” and was written under Washington’s presidency and approved by the Senate under John Adams. In fact, the author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist  and vehemently opposed to  orthodox Christianity as well as the supernatural.  The famous quote of Thomas  Jefferson, which includes the phrase “a wall of separation between  church and state” was part of a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. They had asked President Jefferson to explain the First Amendment, to  which he replied, “the  legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.

Our government has no right to promulgate religion. The Supreme and lower courts have used  Jefferson’s “wall of separation” phrase repeatedly in major decisions upholding neutrality in matters of religion. In 1971, referencing the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision, the Supreme Court forged what is known as the “Three  Part Lemon Test” to determine if a law is permissible under the  First-Amendment religion clause.

  1. A law must have a secular purpose.
  2. It must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  3. It must avoid excessive entanglement of church and state.

The billboards that are popping up all over the country that exclude “Under God” from a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance are very patriotic and true to the principles that our country was founded upon, which is contrary to the propaganda of the Religious Right, many in the GOP and just about all of the Tea Baggers. The United States of America is NOT one nation under  God, but one nation under a Constitution. The Declaration of Independence served an honorable purpose and paved the way for the drafting of our awesome Constitution, which was immediately and specifically amended with the Bill of Rights to uphold individual and  minority rights. The fact that a majority of our citizens are Christian does not make us a Christian nation and on constitutional matters there is no majority rule. The majority has no right to tyrannize the minority on matters  such as race, gender, or religious belief or the lack of religious belief. The wisest policy is the constitutional one, and that is neutrality.

Impunity…

SpoiledThe religious right is behaving like petulant, spoiled children. Nobody is deprived of worship in America. Tax-exempt religious organizations are everywhere. The state has almost no say about private religious beliefs and practices. The Christian Fundamentalists are behaving like the Monarchy was in the Revolutionary days and they cannot even see it because they are blinded by their own ignorance. They seem to have forgotten that the “due process” 14th Amendment assures no public official from the governor all the way down to the public school employee may violate the human rights embodied in our Constitution. At every level, the government must respect the  separation of church and state.

The billboards that remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance reflect the fact that those words did not appear until 1954, under McCarthyism, which was not one our finer moments as a  nation. Likewise, “In God We Trust” was absent from paper currency before 1956. Our original motto chosen by John  Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was “E Pluribus Unum” (Of  Many, One) and was meant to celebrate plurality, not Theocracy.

I also remind those who believe  that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments that the first four  Commandments are religious edicts having nothing to do with law or  ethical behavior. Only three (homicide, theft, and perjury) are relevant  to current American law, and have existed in cultures long before  the fictional character of Moses was invented.  It’s ironic that during this recession if we honored the commandment against “coveting,” it would cause our entire economy  to completely collapse.

Secular Nation…

Our secular laws are based on the secular humanist principle of “justice for all” and they provide protection  against crimes that our secular government enforces through a secular  criminal justice system. The religious fanatics are  ignoring history, law and fairness in their efforts to turn America into the Christian nation that it never was. Fundamentalist Christians would like nothing more than to deny the constitutional freedoms that are guaranteed to all Americans, including non-Christian religious minorities and unbelievers. What they refuse to acknowledge is that history shows that only  harm comes of uniting church and state. The aforementioned actions of the religious right are mirroring the tyranny of the 18th century British Monarchy only prove that ignorance of history results in it’s repetition.

AdamsAmerica has never been a Christian nation. It was not founded on Christian or Biblical principles. The founding fathers were not all Christians. We are and must remain, at all costs, a free nation. Anne Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation points out: “There can be no religious freedom  without the freedom to dissent.” As Americans, we must continue to uphold the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon.  As Atheists, we must work against the real enemies of the state, those who would see our great Nation transformed into a Theocracy.

While we are eating our barbecue this afternoon and watching the fireworks tonight, it would do good to remember that the blessings we enjoy as Americans do not come from some imaginary being, but from the guarantees that are set forth in our secular Constitution.  There is no room in this holiday for the arrogance of religion and the  doctrine that a “chosen few” who walk some ridiculous “narrow path” are  responsible for what this nation is, nor that our problems have anything to do with a lack of religious belief by any of our Citizens.

Independence day is not a religious holiday. We are a secular nation and it is a uniquely secular holiday.

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  15 comments for “Independence Day is Not a Religious Holiday, Nor is the United States a Christian Nation.

  1. bybelknap
    July 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    The Christian Nation types treat the constitution like they treat their bibles; As the inerrant word of God and with little understanding. That is why they don’t recognize the errors and contradictions in the bible, and why they don’t recognize the mechanism spelled out in the constitution which allows it to be changed. They worship both and comprehend neither.

  2. iariese
    July 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Well done. Very well done. And the reality cannot be stated often enough.

  3. had3
    July 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    A slight nit to pick: the majority may have no right to infringe upon the minority, but a super-majority acting within the framework of the constitution could pass an amendment that does infringe upon a minority for any reason. An that’s why we must be vigilant in speaking out against the wingnuts to insure they don’t convince enough people that this is a Christian nation(TM).

  4. Doug Indeap
    July 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Good points well put.

    Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day, the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

  5. July 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Let’s not forget what the “Independence” is from, …something to do with separation from religious authority.

    You’d think that would be a clue.

  6. July 5, 2012 at 5:27 am

    what is moderation???

  7. ConcernedJoe
    July 5, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Of course some cling to the opening words found in the Declaration of Independence (emphasis mine):

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ..

    They conveniently ignore the following that clearly states, as you point out Al, that purpose and power of governments are derived from “men” (people) for the aims and benefit of people.

    Secular/non-religious or atheist aims and beliefs, and religious or theist aims and beliefs, are all subject to protection under the concept as long as the general welfare and other individuals are not negatively affected passively as well as directly.

    There is a trick to settling on the right balance yes, but that is why laws, even the Constitution, must be living and breathing within the bounds of affording more freedom and prosperity to all on net. No where is it stated or implied that religion or what some sect thinks their god would say should dictate that balance. It is unequivocally a secular exercise.

    That brings us to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the D of I.

    These statements are simply a mode of saying in 1700’s vernacular that our rights to freedom and to prosper cannot be constrained or otherwise trampled on by any earthly god (in this case King George).

    It says our rights derive from the mere fact that we we are born (created from our parents – free people who invest us with free life) and because we are all products of the same forces that make us human. Kings have no right to to hold their law and rule above our natural rights.

    This vernacular (suitable for the 1700’s) was used to emphasize our right to be free in the face of a god-like King. But it also couched the dilemma that slavery presented these free-thinking freedom proponents. If it was meant in a strict “Creator”/”God” was the universal supernatural all-everything to everybody God then obviously slavery should be no more. To me the slight of hand is in the “endowed by their Creator” not THE Creator. The creator of slaves is other slaves. Yes weak argument but nevertheless a form of saying that left the Founders the wiggle room they needed.

    Slavery was a philosophical problem to them, was a glaring contradiction to the principles they were espousing. All they said and did had to somehow work around the issue it presented them

  8. ConcernedJoe
    July 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I’d like to clarify my comment on “creator” ..

    I am not saying they wanted to say THE Creator and opted for THEIR Creator because of slavery.

    Rather I am proposing that the word Creator appears only to allow the distinction between slave and free people by saying that their is notion of inheritance at birth. Free people beget free people, slaves, well, create other slaves.

    I know in today’s think the logic would be easily recognized as contrived apologetic nonsense, but in 1700’s America devices that gave the slave colonies some breathing room within the framework of universal freedom being constructed was necessary for unity.

    For instance the notion of Nicolas Hartsoeker’s animalcules (little people in sperm) was in the scientific environment men like Jefferson entered.

  9. July 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    A bit off topic, but:

    “E Pluribus Unum” = “Out of/from Many, One”
    “Plurium Unum” = “Of Many, One”

    … for the three people in the world who care >.>

    • baal
      July 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

      I like the original national motto. If it was good enough for the founders why isn’t good enough for today’s right?

  10. scenario
    July 6, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I live in RI and a there have been a few incidents in the last few months that brought out the religious crazies. One thing they kept saying was that secular people didn’t know history.

    They don’t know basic RI history. The founder of RI, Roger Williams, wrote the separation of church and state into the first colony charter. As far as I know, that was the first legal document that required it.

  11. d cwilson
    July 6, 2012 at 11:48 am

    ConcernedJoe:

    There’s a reason why they ignore everything after the word “Creator”. They see that and immediately stop reading and shout, “Ah-hah! Christian nation! Shut up!”

    I doubt there is a single Christian nation ™ proponent who has read the DofI all the way through.

    Then again, I doubt most of them have read more than a few selected passages of the Bible, either.

    • Lurker111
      July 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

      And, alas, I doubt more than a few of them have any decent ability to read in the first place. :/

  12. July 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Of course, there is one American constitution that specifically invokes “Almighty God” in its preamble. That would be the constitution of the Confederate States of America. And we all know what they were fighting for and how well invoking God didn’t end up helping their cause.

  13. September 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    farley clark

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