Does the Constitution establish a Christian nation?Senator John McCain recently said he agreed with a poll dat found 55% of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian...

Does the Constitution establish a Christian nation?

Senator John McCain recently said he agreed with a poll dat found 55% of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Please give specifics as to whether the Constitution does actually establish a Christian nation.

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brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Luckily, opinion polls do not determine what is Constitutional.  While it is certainly the prerogative of Senator McCain or anyone else to express their opinion and belief with regards to religion, the separation of church and state dates all the way back to Roger Williams and the Bloody Tenet of Persecution in 1644.  The Constitution doesn't mince words either, when the First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law with respect to the establishment of religion".  Much to the chagrin of some today, the Founding Fathers, overall, did not think mixing religion and policy was a good idea.  I tend to agree.  It's also quite possible that Sen. McCain, in an election year primary challenge against a Tea Party conservative, was merely appealing to the Republican base by making such a statement, as I would imagine he knows the First Amendment and legal precedent on this matter quite well.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I agree.  The constitution was designed to protect freedom of religion.  However this appears in the Bill of Rights, which is actually a series of amendments to the constitution.  I think that the founders considered God to include all religions.  They did not consider agnostics or atheists in the equation.  However, the Bill of Rights protects them too.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

When written, the Constitution was intended to form a workable national government. It has obviously succeeded, as it is still in force with few Amendments. At the time it was written, however, it was a source of debate and compromise. There was no intent to form an ideal government, simply a workable one. The Constitution does not aspire to create a Christian nation or anything near it; in fact it specifically prohibits an establishment of religion in the First Amendment. My guess is that after "in God we Trust" was added to our currency, and "under God" was added to the flag during the Cold War, those less well versed in history simply assumed that because of this, we are a Christian Nation and were created that way by the Constitution. Many people may believe that; but it is totally incorrect.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would argue that the Constitution does not establish the United States as a Christian nation.  In fact, it goes out of its way to make sure that the US would not be established as an explicitly and officially Christian nation.

There are two main places in which this is done.  First, there is First Amendment.  This amendment specifically prohibits the establishment of any official religion in the US.  It also guarantees that all religions will have the right to practice their religion freely.  The other is in Article VI.  There, the Constitution specifically says that there shall be no religious tests to determine who may hold office in the US.

The US was clearly set up by Christians and the majority of Americans are Christian.  But the Constitution does not set up a Christian nation.

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