Is the United States a Christian Nation?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Brian Montopoli, senior political reporter for CBSNews.com, stated in his Apr. 14, 2009 article “Hot Topic: Is U.S. a ‘Christian Nation?'” posted on the CBS News “Political Hotsheet” blog:
“Ultimately, the question of whether America is a ‘Christian nation’ depends in large part on how you define the phrase. If a ‘Christian nation’ is simply a nation made largely of Christians, then America is undeniably one. Despite the increase in non-religious Americans, they are still outnumbered more than 6-1 by Christians, according to Gallup.
But if a ‘Christian nation’ is something else – a nation on which laws, behavior and policy are fundamentally tied to Christian ideals – then the question is more complex.”Apr. 14, 2009
Fox News reported on June 27, 2002 that:
“[T]he appeals court [U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals] said that an atheist or a holder of certain non-Judeo-Christian beliefs could see it [inclusion of ‘under God’] as an endorsement of monotheism.”June 27, 2002
Jon Meacham, former Editor of Newsweek and author of American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, wrote in Newsweek‘s Apr. 4, 2009 cover story “The End of Christian America”:
“[I]n the new NEWSWEEK Poll, fewer people now think of the United States as a ‘Christian nation’ than did so when George W. Bush was president (62 percent in 2009 versus 69 percent in 2008). Two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is ‘losing influence’ in American society, while just 19 percent say religion’s influence is on the rise…
Many conservative Christians believe they have lost the battles over issues such as abortion, school prayer and even same-sex marriage, and that the country has now entered a post-Christian phase.”Apr. 14, 2009
Peter J. Leithart, President of the Theopolis Institute, in a June 2020 article, “Christian Nation, Yes and No,” available at firstthings.com, stated:
“The theologically sound response to Christian nationalism must be both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ On the ‘Yes’ side: The call for nations and rulers to submit to Jesus the Christ is inherent in the gospel message. Few Scriptures are cited more often in the New Testament than Psalms 2 and 110, both of which are interpreted as prophecies of Jesus’s enthronement as King of kings and Lord of nations. We hope and pray that Christ’s commandments are reflected in the institutions, laws, policies, customs, symbols, and character of our people.
On the ‘No’ side: American Christians often displace the Church from the center of faith, which results in a religious individualism that makes them easy prey to the lure of a nationalism that finds solidarity primarily in common citizenship. But the Church, not America, is God’s people at the heart of God’s plan, and the Church is an international body composed of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Membership in this communion necessarily limits, qualifies, and loosens our loyalty to our homeland. A Christian immigrant from Zambia or Guatemala is my brother in a far deeper way than an atheist American; we are members of one another because we are members of Christ. Any substitute is a false church, politically dangerous and theologically damnable. Unchecked by the Church, nationalism can only deform the soul.”June 2020
J. Randy Forbes, US Representative (R-VA), in a May 7, 2009 article, “Obama Is Wrong When He Says We’re Not a Judeo-Christian Nation,” available at usnews.com, stated:
“Our nation’s history provides overwhelming evidence that America was birthed upon Judeo-Christian principles. The first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of four chapters of the Bible. In 1776, in approving the Declaration of Independence, our founders acknowledged that all men ‘are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…’ and noted that they were relying ‘on the protection of Divine Providence’ in the founding of this country. John Quincy Adams said, ‘The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.’ Also, the signers of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, insisted the treaty begin with the phrase, In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity…
While America has always welcomed individuals of diverse faiths and nonfaith, we have never ceased to be a Judeo-Christian nation. That small minority could tear references of faith off of every building and document across our nation, but it would not change the fact that we were built on Judeo-Christian principles. Indeed, these beliefs are so interwoven into the tapestry of freedom and liberty upon which our nation is built that to begin to unravel one is to begin to unravel the other.”May 7, 2009
Robert Jeffress, DMin, Southern Baptist Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, as quoted by Tara Isabella Burton in a June 25, 2018 article, “Trump-Allied Pastor Tells Worshippers “America Is a Christian Nation”, available at vox.com, stated:
“Listen long enough to any … left-wing group and you’ll believe [the secular] history of America. You will come to believe that America was founded by men with a large diversity of religious belief … all united by one dream. They wanted to build a secular nation. … Their goal was to build a large unscalable wall around this country … that would protect this country from any religious influence seeping into public life…
That version of history belongs in the same category as the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It is a complete myth! … America was founded predominantly … by Christians who wanted to build this foundation, this Christian nation, on the foundation of God’s will.”June 25, 2018
Carl B. Pearlston, JD, Los Angeles attorney and former Executive Committee member of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), wrote in his Apr. 2001 Connecticut Jewish Ledger article “Is America a Christian Nation?” reproduced on the Catholic Education website:
“Can America still be called a Christian nation?… There are millions of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, Hindus, Wiccans, Naturists, Agnostics, and Atheists, but Christians comprise roughly 84% of the population. Our constitutional legal system is still based on the Jewish/Christian Bible, not the Koran or other holy book. We still observe Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, as an official holiday. Easter and Christmas still have a special place in the holiday lexicon. The Ten Commandments are still on the wall behind the Supreme Court Justices when they take the bench. Our coins still display the motto ‘In God We Trust.’… We live, not under a Christian government, but in a nation where all are free to practice their particular religion, in accommodation with other religions, and in accordance with the basic principles of the nation, which are Christian in origin. It is in that sense that America may properly be referred to as a Christian nation.”Apr. 2001
John McCain, United States Senator (R-AZ), made the following comments during a Sep. 28, 2007 interview with the Beliefnet website:
“I would probably have to say yes, that the constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation… The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say ‘I only welcome Christians.’ We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses; but when they come here they should know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.”Sep. 28, 2007
Paul S. Vickery, PhD, Professor of History at Oral Roberts University, wrote the following statements for a debate on the Opposing Views website titled “Is the US a Christian Nation?” (accessed Apr. 28, 2009):
“America was not founded as a Christian nation in the sense that Saudi Arabia and Iran are now Muslim nations where mosque and state are one. There is no coercion to follow a particular faith, and it was simply stated in the first Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… It is, however, my contention that the nation was founded by Christians upon Judeo-Christian principles, and without the guiding force of Christianity this nation would not be the most stable, longest running constitutionally based republican government in the world.”Apr. 28, 2009
Steven H. Shiffrin, JD, Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, wrote in a Nov. 2004 article published in the Cornell Law Review:
“[I]t seems clear that generalized governmental endorsements of monotheism are consistent with the Establishment Clause. It seems clear that, despite all the lip service to equality, the United States Constitution is best interpreted to be consistent with monotheistic ceremonial prayers that do not involve coercion. Indeed, Justice Douglas was on to something when he said that our institutions presuppose a divine being.”Nov. 2004
Jerry Falwell, late National Chairman of the Moral Majority Coalition, stated during a July 8, 2004 Fox News Hannity & Colmes interview:
“This nation was founded predominantly by persons who were followers of Jesus Christ. And numerically something like 85 percent of all Americans would profess to being at least Christian oriented.
Now that is not a negative thing. That’s a positive thing. The reason why this country is so tolerant… the reason why Muslims – unlike Christians and Jews in Islamic states – can come here and build their temples and mosques with absolute freedom is because it is a Christian nation.”July 8, 2004
Antonin Scalia, LLB, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote in his June 27, 2005 dissent of McCreary County v ACLU :
“If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word ‘God,’ or ‘the Almighty,’ one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists. The Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington at the instance of the First Congress was scrupulously nondenominational–but it was monotheistic.”June 27, 2005
Earl Warren, JD, 14th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, stated during a speech at the Feb. 1954 International Council for Christian Leadership prayer breakfast, quoted in the Feb. 15, 1954 issue of TIME Magazine:
“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses… Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia… or to the Charter of New England… or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay… or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut… the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles…
I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people… I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.”Feb. 1954
Samuel P. Huntington, PhD, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, wrote in an Op-Ed titled “‘Under God’ – Michael Newdow Is Right: Atheists Are Outsiders in America,” published June 16, 2004 in The Wall Street Journal:
“Americans have always been extremely religious and overwhelmingly Christian. The 17th-century settlers founded their communities in America in large part for religious reasons. Eighteenth-century Americans saw their Revolution in religious and largely biblical terms. The Revolution reflected their ‘covenant with God’ and was a war between ‘God’s elect’ and the British ‘Antichrist…’
Americans tend to have a certain catholicity toward religion: All deserve respect. Given this general tolerance of religious diversity, non-Christian faiths have little alternative but to recognize and accept America as a Christian society.”June 16, 2004
Brad O’Leary, President and CEO of Associated Television News (ATI-News) and author of America’s War on Christianity, stated in a Jan. 7, 2011 Op-Ed for FoxNews.com titled “Ninth Circuit Denies America Is a Christian Nation – Bans Crosses”:
“During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt prayed over national airwaves to ‘Almighty God’ for the success of the D-Day invasion and the war effort in a manner that today would surely unleash a torrent of protest. Roosevelt’s prayer begged God’s blessing in America’s ‘struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization.’
That’s right. Our religion. It wasn’t Hinduism or Shintoism that President Roosevelt had in mind when he uttered that phrase. It was America’s Judeo-Christian beliefs, which have been a pillar of our society since the nation’s founding.
Current attempts to deny, stifle, and eradicate Christianity are a much more recent aberration. Still, today the official U.S. Military Code of Conduct (Article Six) states: ‘I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.'”Jan. 7, 2011
David J. Brewer, JD, late US Supreme Court Justice, in his lecture series published in 1905 under the title The United States, A Christian Nation, stated:
“I have said enough to show that Christianity came to this country with the first colonists; has been powerfully identified with its rapid development, colonial and national, and today exists as a mighty factor in the life of the republic. This is a Christian nation…[T]he calling of this republic a Christian nation is not a mere pretence but a recognition of an historical, legal and social truth.” 1905
Darryn Beckstrom, MA and MPA, wrote a Nov. 22, 2005 editorial in the The Badger Herald:
“The government should be allowed to endorse monotheism. But such an endorsement would not allow the government to endorse different monotheist religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. In keeping with the intent of this nation, this is indeed a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution, as an endorsement of monotheism would allow for the presence of God in our nation’s courtrooms, classrooms, and government buildings.
It would also keep frivolous ‘Newdow’ lawsuits from falling into the hands of activist judges who could potentially threaten the belief system this nation was built upon.”Nov. 22, 2005
In Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 US 457, decided on Feb. 29, 1892, the US Supreme Court unanimously held:
“Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, ‘In the name of God, Amen;’ the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe.
These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.”1892 - Holy Trinity v. US
Scot McKnight, PhD, Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a May 19, 2020 article, “Is America a Christian Nation?,” available at christianitytoday.com, stated:
“Is the USA a Christian Nation? Is it? Was it? Was it ever? No, no, no, no…
In the USA, whether progressive or conservative today, the Lord is losing to the lord called USA. We have become a politicized church – right and left – and nothing damages the gospel more than politicized Christians.
The church is a church for all nations, for all flags.
Jesus wants to be Lord of all or not Lord at all. When we share his lordship with the nation he ceases being Lord. Read the end of Matthew 7.”May 19, 2020
Lee Pastors, author of Scandalous Witness, as quoted by Scot McKnight in a May 19, 2020 article, “Is America a Christian Nation?,” available at christianitytoday.com, stated:
“America cannot possibly be a Christian nation because no nation-state can be a Christian nation-state. This is not a biased judgment about America. It is a simple matter of understanding what a nation-state is and what Christianity is. These two cannot be conjoined.
The following are some particulars.
(1) Nation-states are bounded geographically by borders. But the Christian church is transnational and is bounded by no artificial geographical boundaries
(2) Nation-states are bounded procedurally by laws regarding citizenship…
(3) Nation-states build walls, literally or procedurally. The church of Christ welcomes all, literally and procedurally.
(4) Nation-states maintain their existence through military might and standing armies, precisely because they are geographically bounded. The church, on the other hand, is an entity that lives by, lives according to, and bears witness to suffering love…
(5) Nation-states seek their own partisan agenda.”May 19, 2020
Rob Boston, Senior Adviser at Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Editor of Church & State, in an Oct. 21, 2020 article, “New Poll Gauges Americans’ Belief In The ‘Christian Nation’ Myth,” available at au.org, stated:
“PRRI also asked respondents if they believe the United States is a Christian nation. This is an interesting question because that term can be defined in different ways. Some people really do believe (incorrectly) that our Constitution singles out Christianity for special preference. Others just believe the nation is culturally Christian.
PRRI found that 36% say the country is a Christian nation. An additional 40% say America was once Christian but no longer is. Only 22% agree with the statement that the United States has never been a Christian nation. (The good news is that belief in America as a Christian nation is declining; in 2016, it stood at 41%.)”Oct. 21, 2020
Dan van Voorhis, PhD, author, historian, professor, and speaker at 1517, in an Aug. 14, 2019 article, “Is America A Christian Nation?,” available at 1517.org, stated:
“A person, not a nation, can be a Christian because only a person can be saved by grace through faith in the work of Christ.”Aug. 14, 2019
Barack Obama, JD, 44th US President, stated during a joint news conference with Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on Apr. 6, 2009:
“One of the great strengths of the United States is, although as I mention we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation, or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”Apr. 6, 2009
Karl Rove, former Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, stated during a Mar. 9, 2010 Fox News interview with Sean Hannity:
“That’s one thing to say that we derive much from the Judeo-Christian ethic, that we have the First Amendment protecting the free expression of religion, that we are a nation that prides its faith. But if you say we’re a Christian nation what happened to the Jews? What happened to the Muslims? What happened to the Sheiks? What happened to the non-believers? That’s one of the great things about America.”Mar. 9, 2010
Alan M. Dershowitz, LLB, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, wrote in his Huffington Post Op-Ed “McCain and the Godless Constitution,” posted Oct. 3, 2007:
“Recently John McCain… declared that ‘the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.’ What an ignoramus! McCain should go back to school and take Civics 1, where he might learn that the United States Constitution was called ‘the godless constitution,’ by its opponents, because it was the first constitution in history not to include references to God or some dominant religion. The Constitution mentions religion only once, in prohibiting any religious test for holding office under the United States.
The Bill of Rights mentions religion twice, once in prohibiting an establishment of religion (a clear reference to any branch of Protestant Christianity, which was then the dominant religion) and a second time, in guaranteeing the free exercise of all religions. Several years after the ratification, the Senate ratified a treaty with the Barbary regime of Tripoli which expressly proclaimed that ‘the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.'”Oct. 3, 2007
Brian McLaren, MA, leader of the “Emergent Church” movement, wrote in his Apr. 16, 2009 article “A Christian Nation Wouldn’t Act This Way,” published on Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog:
“When people tell me that we are or have been a Christian nation, I want to ask, ‘When?’ Was it in the colonial era or during westward expansion, when we began stealing the lands of the Native Americans, making and breaking treaties, killing wantonly, and justifying our actions by the Bible? Was it in the era of slavery or segregation, when again, we used the Bible to justify the unjustifiable? Was it in more recent history, when we dropped the first nuclear bomb and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, when we overthrew democratically elected governments in the Cold War era, when we plundered the environment without concern for the birds of the air or flowers of the field, or when we sanctioned or turned a blind eye to torture earlier this decade? Was it earlier this week, when I turned on the TV or radio and heard people scapegoating immigrants and gay people and Muslims?…[I] would say that the more we claim America is a Christian nation, the less we uphold the highest ideals of both authentic Christian faith and authentic American democracy.” Apr. 16, 2009
Steve Benen, former spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, stated in his Apr. 7, 2009 article for the Washington Monthly website titled “It’s Not a ‘Christian Nation'”:
“The US Constitution is, of course, an entirely secular document, but for years, the religious right movement and its allies have been anxious to declare the US a ‘Christian Nation…’
The usual argument is that most of the US population is Christian. That’s true, but irrelevant. Most of the US population is white – does that make the United States a ‘white nation’? We also hear arguments that most of the Founding Fathers were Christians. That’s also true, but also irrelevant. Most of the framers were also men – does that make our country a ‘man’s nation’?”Apr. 7, 2009
Lewis Grossberger, freelance journalist, blogger and humorist, stated in his Feb. 14, 2010 blog post for the True Slant website titled “Did the Founding Fathers Want America to Be a Christian Nation? Is the Pope Hindu?”:
“If the Founding Fathers had wanted America to be a Christian nation, they would’ve said so. Plainly. Unambiguously. Right up front in the Constitution… Because it’s kind of a big deal, not something you forget to mention…
Who cares what the Founding Fathers maybe sort of possibly cryptically wanted? We’ve changed plenty of things we do know they definitely, openly wanted, because they (thank you, guys) gave us the means to change things as the times changed. We abolished slavery. We gave women the right to vote… Even if somehow we were able to text-message the Founding Fathers and found out that every last one of them really wanted the U.S. to be a theocracy with an ayatollah at its head and a statue of Jesus in every home, we still wouldn’t have to do it.”Feb. 14, 2010
John Shuck, MDiv, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, wrote in the Aug. 10, 2002 Billings Gazette:
“[O]ur faith will not be compromised by learning the wisdom from people who practice other religions, like my Jain friend from Lowville. On the contrary, our faith and our nation will be enriched.
Perhaps, we are not ‘one nation under God’ after all.
A more accurate description of our country may be that we are ‘one nation under many gods’ whom (we hope) will all ‘get along wonderfully.'”Aug. 10, 2002
Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, wrote in her Apr. 13, 2009 article “Obama Revives Forgotten Principle of Founders,” posted on Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog:
“US citizens understood the distinction between a Christian nation, or government, and a majority Christian population in the 18th century, and the fact that many do not understand this today – in a multiethnic and multireligious society that the revolutionary generation could not possibly have imagined – attests to the poor teaching of American history in schools throughout the nation…
The majority of Americans are still Christians, but our government is secular and our nation is now composed of nonbelievers and believers of numerous religious denominations – some of which did not even exist at the time of the nation’s founding.”Apr. 13, 2009
In Newdow v. U.S., (2002), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision written by Judge Goodwin, held:
“In the context of the Pledge, the statement that the United States is a nation ‘under God’ is an endorsement of religion. It is a profession of a religious belief, namely, a belief in monotheism.
The recitation that ours is a nation ‘under God’ is not a mere acknowledgment that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase ‘one nation under God’ in the context of the Pledge is normative. To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States.”2002 - Newdow v. US
Erik Walker Wikstrom, MDiv, Unitarian Universalist minister and author of Teacher, Guide, Companion: Rediscovering Jesus in a Secular Age, wrote in his Dec. 23, 2010 article “A ‘Christian Nation’ at Christmas?” posted on Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog:
“This never was a Christian nation. It was, at first, a Wampanoag, and Cherokee, and Iroquois, and Susquehannock, and Menominee, and Abenaki (and others) nation. And then a number of different Christian peoples came and took possession of it, seeking a place to practice religion freely…
Yet if it were a Christian nation – truly was a nation that followed the teachings and example of the man from Nazareth – then two things would most certainly be true: First, we would spend considerably less time arguing about what to call things, and how to celebrate things, and what were the signs of the righteous. Not because we’d all agree, but because in a truly Christian nation we’d know that these outward signs are really of very little significance in the grand scheme of things. Second, and what really matters most, we would see to it that there was no hunger, no homelessness, no avoidable sickness, no discrimination.”Dec. 23, 2010
Joel Barlow, late US diplomat and poet, wrote in the 1796 Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary (more commonly known as the Treaty of Triopli) ratified by President John Adams on June 10, 1797:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muhammad-following] nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”1796 - Treaty of Tripoli
Paul Kurtz, PhD, and Chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism, wrote in the Fall 2001 Free Inquiry:
“The United States is not a monotheistic nation either. Its citizens hold a wide range of beliefs, from atheism through monotheism to polytheism and even pantheism. The vigorous doctrinal disputes that have invigorated life throughout the nation’s history should provide sufficient evidence of America’s religious diversity.”Fall 2001