A Christian Nation My Ass,
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on November 22, 1998. The title above was not the title used by the paper.)
In a letter to the editor (Review, Nov. 10, 1998), Tom Smith quoted an 1892 Supreme Court decision, Church of the Holy Trinity V. United States, that seemingly declares that we are a Christian nation with, "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon the redeemer of mankind…. This is a religious people…. that this is a Christian nation."
The quote, presented by Smith as a Supreme Court ruling, was not the court's decision but was made in "dicta" – a gratuitous statement unessential to the Court's actual ruling against the practice of polygamy.
Justice David J. Brewer, author of the Holy Trinity opinion, in his 1905 book, "The United States, A Christian Nation," wrote, "But in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it…. Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all…. In fact the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions…. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world."
We are a Christian nation only in the sense that the majority of our population is Christian. Most people drink beer too, so in the same sense we could be called a beer drinking nation. Fast-food, football, and sex (we do have an increasing population because of that "Go forth and multiply" thing) are also popular with the majority of our population. Again, in the same sense that we are a Christian nation, we are also a horny, heavier that we should be, beer drinking, football watching nation.
Tom, thanks for the patient explanation, but next time I'd rather have the hastily presented accurate one. Repeat after me: Our Founders were not Christians; they were Deists.
John L. Ferri