Was America founded as a Christian nation? The debate rages on. Many who claim that America was not founded as a Christian nation appeal to the United States Constitution, a document that does not mention Christianity or God (with the exception of reference to the “Year of our Lord,” a standard way of writing the date). The Constitution was never meant to be a religious document, nor did its framers set out to use the document to establish a Christian nation.
This prompts the question: Why did the framers leave God out of this most important of all American documents? There has been much historical debate over this issue, but two views have been most popular. Some have said that the framers deliberately omitted references to God in the Constitution because they wanted to create a secular nation. Others have argued, based on the political idea of “federalism,” that the framers did not mention God because they believed that the relationship between religion and government was a subject that should be addressed at the state and not the national level.
The framers’ belief in federalism has profound implications for the question of whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation. Although the federal Constitution does not mention God or require government officials to be Christians, many of the state constitutions do. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, for example, affirms religious freedom but requires that the governor “declare himself to be of the Christian religion.” Members of the state legislature in Massachusetts needed to “believe the Christian religion, and have firm persuasion of its truth.”
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