September 30th, 2007
03:20 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain: I would vote for Muslim president

McCain said he would prefer a Christian president.

(CNN)- GOP presidential hopeful Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, says he feels religion should play a role in one's selection of a presidential candidate. "I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is 'Will this person carry on the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'"

McCain made the comments an in interview with beliefnet, a website that covers religious issues and affairs.

"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who has a grounding in my faith," he said when asked about a Muslim candidate running for president.

Mr. McCain contacted beliefnet after the interview to clarify his remarks. "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values," he said.

"The Senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another," Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communication director told CNN when asked for clarification on his comments. "Read in context, his interview with beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely. In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, is America a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."

McCain also said people should not be quick to dismiss his rival in the GOP race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, simply because of his Mormon religion. "I believe that the Mormon religion is a religion that I don't share, but I respect," he said. "I think that Governor Romney's religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for President of the United States, absolutely not."

He said he did agree with a recent poll that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

"But I say that in the broadest sense," he said. "The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, 'I welcome only Christians.' We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are a nation founded on Christian principles."

McCain was also asked to clarify his being identified an Episcopalian, yet recently referring to himself as Baptist. "[It was] one comment on the bus after hours," he said. "I meant to say that I practice in a – I am a Christian and I attend a Baptist church." McCain said he was raised Episcopalian, but has attended a Phoenix Baptist church for many years.

When asked if he was close to taking the final step, and undergoing a Baptist baptism, he said he has been in discussions with his pastor about it. "But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign," he said. "I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn't do."

- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

Filed under: John McCain • Race to '08
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    I really wish people would stop insisting that American was founded on christian principles this is one of the greatest lies of our times. Go back and research what the founding fathers thought of christians and you may think again about that statement and since Mr. McCain insists on such nonsense he has lost my vote...

    September 30, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. laurinda,ny

    When will these presidental candidates come to the realization that politics and religion do not mix. The best thing some of these candidates can do would be to stop talking. They are digging their whole deeper and deeper.

    September 30, 2007 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    I see republicans are getting the idea! I hope the drop off of evangelist support doesn't derail them from restoring our founding principles of democracy. Maybe one day they could have another chance at winning the WH.

    September 30, 2007 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Blayze Kohime, Columbus, OH

    America was founded on Deist principals; I wish people would stop saying it was on Christian principals. Why should someone believe that non-Christians have less principal and morality than Christians? I know atheists that exhibit more Christian principal than many Christians. A person's religion or lack of religion in today's society has no bearing at all on if they are a good law-abiding person or an evil fanatic.

    September 30, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. Sean, Odenton, MD

    Do your job.

    You are misrepresenting McCain's statement in the headline. I don't like McCain, but that doesn't give you permission to fail at presenting the facts.

    Fix the headline.

    September 30, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Matt, Albany, GA

    Laurinda, you misspelled "hole". Steve and Laurinda, wouldn't it be nice if we could just seperate not only church and state but church and people (sarcasm alert-level 5)

    September 30, 2007 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  7. tlaw, cincinnati, ohio

    Mr. McCain has finally lost all direction. Voting for a muslim in this country would be the most radical vote for confusion yet. Muslims, historicaly, can't keep peace in their own regions. What makes anyone think that it would be any different here?

    September 30, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  8. Mark, Dallas, TX

    I have read the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence...NO where does it say this country is a Christian country. It makes reference to God but does not say a "Christian" God...there are many interpretations of what God means...

    If anyone takes a look at the "Jefferson" Bible – he tried to make the ideals in the Bible accessible to others based on reason and rationality, and not "hocus pocus" that seems to pervade current interpretations of the Bible.

    Politicians are voted to do the governments business for all the people of this country, regardless of a particular religion. Maybe if politicians would do this, we'd actually work more cohesively as a society rather than constantly pitting one group against another as if one religion is better than another.

    McCain is a major disappointment. He was once seen as the reasonable Republican but now seems to be getting sucked into the irrational Republican vortex that will doom the party until we can get it back on track to serve ALL the people. Ask Tavis Smiley... I guess the Republicans only want to serve those that look and think like them...hmm, doesn't that sound like dictators and authoritarian governments in recent history?

    The Republicans do not have my vote in the next election cycle...enough is enough.

    September 30, 2007 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  9. Frederica McCayne, Dallas, TX

    OMG, why wouldn't we stop mixing religion and politics? Yes, yes, yes, America is a religious country but this is also a free country where people can choose to be, for instance, a free thinker. Moreover, we have learned enough that religious issues are very-very intricate and explosive at the same time.

    So, Senator ..... any other substantive issue worth discussion that you can offer us?

    September 30, 2007 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. Phil, Minneapolis, MN

    I think Mr. McCain needs to take a history course: "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." – Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, 1797, unanimously ratified by the Senate and signed by President Adams. While the treaty was widely published throughout the country, there is no record of any controversy surrounding that section of it.

    September 30, 2007 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  11. Frederica McCayne, Dallas, TX

    OMG, why wouldn't we stop mixing religion and politics? Yes, yes, yes, America is a religious country but this is also a free country where people can choose to be, for instance, a free thinker. Moreover, we have learned enough that religious issues are very-very intricate and explosive at the same time.

    So, Senator ….. any other substantive issue worth discussing that you can offer us?

    September 30, 2007 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    George Washington and Religion
    Washington gives us little in his writings to indicate his personal religious beliefs. As noted by Franklin Steiner in "The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents" (1936), Washington commented on sermons only twice. In his writings, he never referred to "Jesus Christ." He attended church rarely, and did not take communion – though Martha did, requiring the family carriage to return back to the church to get her later.

    When trying to arrange for workmen in 1784 at Mount Vernon, Washington made clear that he would accept "Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists." Washington wrote Lafayette in 1787, "Being no bigot myself, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church that road to heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest and least liable to exception."

    Clear evidence of his personal theology is lacking, even on his deathbed when he died a "death of civility" without expressions of Christian hope. His failure to document beliefs in conventional dogma, such as a life after death, is a clue that he may not qualify as a conventional Christian. Instead, Washington may be closer to a "warm deist" than a standard Anglican in colonial Virginia.

    He was complimentary to all groups and attended Quaker, German Reformed, and Roman Catholic services. In a world where religious differences often led to war, Washington was quite conscious of religious prejudice. However, he joked about it rather than exacerbated it. Washington once noted that he was unlikely to be affected by the German Reformed service he attended, because he did not understand a word of what was spoken.

    Washington was an inclusive, "big tent" political leader seeking support from the large numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers in Virginia, and even more groups on a national level. He did not enhance his standing in some areas by advocating support for a particular theology, and certainly did not identify "wedge issues" based on religious differences. Instead, in late 1775, Washington banned the Protestant celebration of the Pope's Day (a traditional mocking of the Catholic leader) by the Continental Army. He deplored the sectarian strife in Ireland, and wished the debate over Patrick Henry's General Assessment bill would "die an easy death."

    Washington was not anti-religion. Washington was not uninterested in religion. He was a military commander who struggled to motivate raw troops in the French and Indian War. He recognized that recruiting the militia in the western part of Virginia required accommodating the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed members in officially-Anglican Virginia. He was aware that religious beliefs were a fundamental part of the lives of his peers and of his soldiers. He knew that a moral basis for the American Revolution and the creation of a new society would motivate Americans to support his initiatives – and he knew that he would receive more support if he avoided discriminating against specific religious beliefs.

    In the Revolutionary War, Washington supported troops selecting their own chaplains (such as the Universalist John Murray) while trying to avoid the development of factions within the army. Religion offered him moral leverage to instill discipline, reduce theft, deter desertion, and minimize other rambunctious behaviors that upset local residents. It was logical for Washington to invoke the name of the Divine, but it may have been motivated more by a desire for improving life on earth rather than dealing with life after death.

    Wahington understood the distinction between morality and religion, and between toleration of differences and full religious liberty. Washington's replies to messages from Jews and Swedenborgians showed he was not merely accepting the differences of religion, tolerating those who had not chosen the correct path. Instead, he endorsed what Jefferson would later define as a "wall of separation between church and state."

    Washington used generic terms with his public requests for divine assistance, to the extent that his personal denomination must be classified as "unknown." That vagueness has not stopped Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Unitarian Universalists from claiming him as a member, and has invited others to identity him as a Deist. Washington was a man dedicated to creating national unity, not an exclusionist seeking to identify and select those with correct beliefs for reward in this life or the next. It would have been inconsistent for him to seek to blend the westerners and the Tidewater residents, the Yankees from the north and the slave-owning planters from the South, into one national union – while at the same time supporting narrow religious tests for officeholders, or advocating the superiority of one religious sect over another.

    The obelisk we call the Washington Monument is clad in white limestone. When illuminated at night, it glows white. It stands out from the dark background because of the artificial light we project on it; there is no natural light corning from the stone. If we projected a colored light, we'd see the tall Washington Monument as an object glowing with color. Similarly, many writers project onto Washington's life a set of religious beliefs – and see a reflection of what they project.

    Mason Locke Weems manufactured stories to establish Washington as a pious Christian, a man who suceeded in part because he prayed for God's blessing. Weems was a parson, and his inaccuracies (including the moralistic "I can not tell a lie" tale about cutting down a cherry tree) have shaped the perspective of Washington for two centuries now. Many modern writers still repeat second-hand information of questionable reliability to describe Washington as a traditional Protestant. The individuals who describe Washington's life as one marked by prayer and steady attendance at church are often advocates of a religious perspective, proselytizing the perspective of a particular denomination or at least trying to shape American society so more people attend church regularly.

    At times, they cite the generic proclamations issued as a public leader to portray Washington (or even Jefferson!) as a mainstream Christian, and to define the United States as a Christian Nation. Some of those who emphasize the personal faith – or faithlessness – of elected officials use it as a partisan issue. The Moral Majority led by Rev. Jerry Falwell was clearly allied with the Republican Party, and both Jimmy Carter and Pat Robertson used religion as part of his campaign for the presidency.

    In modern America, many religious leaders consider personal salvation to be fundamental to the strength/survival of American society. The debate about the morality of elected officials has been intense since the realization that Lyndon Johnson lied about the status of war in Vietnam and subsequent Presidents have demonstrated publicly their own lapses, particularly Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

    Those who attempt to project a religious theology upon Washington often seek to connect theological beliefs with civic benefits, assuming morality is based on religion. In contrast,
    ...[Message truncated]

    September 30, 2007 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    It spite of Christian right attempts to rewrite history to make Jefferson into a Christian, little about his philosophy resembles that of Christianity. Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity.

    Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term "Nature's God" used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus (see The Jefferson Bible) leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus.

    Distortions of history occur in the minds of many Christians whenever they see the word "God" embossed in statue or memorial concrete. For example, those who visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington will read Jefferson's words engraved: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man." When they see the word "God" many Christians see this as "proof" of his Christianity without thinking that "God" can have many definitions ranging from nature to supernatural. Yet how many of them realize that this passage aimed at attacking the tyranny of the Christian clergy of Philadelphia, or that Jefferson's God was not the personal god of Christianity? Those memorial words came from a letter written to Benjamin Rush in 1800 in response to Rush's warning about the Philadelphia clergy attacking Jefferson (Jefferson was seen as an infidel by his enemies during his election for President). The complete statement reads as follows:

    "The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."

    Jefferson aimed at laissez-faire liberalism in the name of individual freedom, He felt that any form of government control, not only of religion, but of individual mercantilism consisted of tyranny. He thought that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.

    If anything can clear of the misconceptions of Jeffersonian history, it can come best from the author himself. Although Jefferson had a complex view of religion, too vast for this presentation, the following quotes provide a glimpse of how Thomas Jefferson viewed the corruptions of Christianity and religion

    Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

    -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

    The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

    Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

    People should do some research into the history of the United States founding fathers before making such claims as to it "christian" birth....

    September 30, 2007 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814


    If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.

    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814


    You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819


    As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, Oct. 31, 1819


    Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820


    To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, Aug. 15, 1820


    Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.

    -Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

    I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823


    And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823


    It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825


    All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826 (in the last letter he penned)

    September 30, 2007 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    Dear Mr. McCain
    Since your ignorance is so blatant and I now find you ineligible to serve as president I thought that I would do the research for you I hope you learn a thing or two with my previous postings please let me know If I can further your education any more...

    September 30, 2007 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. Justino, Ada OK

    I'm not voting for McCain, but at least I can recognize that he is a man of honor, integrity, and faith.

    You anti-religion types continue to show off your ignorance. Religion is an important part of every society. Our constitution is superior because it insists that the gov't not endorse any one particular religion. Open your eyes. Atheism & Secularism are religions in their own right. Our constituition protects Me from Your religion.

    September 30, 2007 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Laurinda-please help us in Ulster County put a democrat in our DA's office.His web address is thanks. Any help you can give us would be much appreciated.

    September 30, 2007 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Most of us connect to the religion and deity of the culture we were raised in. Even those who don't believe in Jehovah/Yahweh but who were raised in a Christian country find the images and metaphors of that religion to be useful and meaningful. We do not choose our religions, we simply inherit them. The generation of 1789, who wrote the Constitution, were raised with Christian concepts and they articulated their thoughts using Christian metaphors.

    However, most Christians have not read the Bible (cover-to-cover, Genesis to Revelations). They learned their religion from movies like the Ten Commandments and The Passion of the Christ. They have heard their minister or priest cherry pick a verse here and a verse there to make a point when another minister or priest would use different verses to prove the opposite point of view – all from the Bible.

    Ask any ten Christians what a particular verse in the Bible means and you will get twelve contradictory answers. The same is true of Muslims, where one Imam declares the will of Allah to be this and another assures us that Allah has a very different opinion. That is to say, we form our opinions first and then figure out how God must surely agree with us. This is not a conscious process, but how else can two people read the same book and disagree violently on what it meant?

    The Christianity of today does not resemble the Christianity of 1776. The same words are used, but their meanings have evolved dramatically.

    If we decided today that all future actions of all levels of government should be based on Christian principles, the Conservatives would assure us that God wants us to be Conservative and the Liberals would assure us that God clearly instructed us to be Liberal. Feminists would assure us that God didn't REALLY mean that women should be subservient to their fathers and husbands. Divorced people (half of us) would assure us the God didn't REALLY forbid divorce. When police started enforcing feminine modesty by dictating what it is decent to wear (longer skirts, no display of belly button, sensible shoes, covered hair), many women would be perturbed to learn that their fashion preferences are not Biblically authorized. When husbands start taking their wives to court for disobedience, wives will start complaining. When people start getting ticketed and fined for not going to church, they will surely complain about the fine. They will also protest having to get a signed doctor's excuse for not going to church.

    I would be willing to vote for a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, an atheist, or a Wiccan as long as he or she was not a devout Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, atheist, or Wiccan.

    September 30, 2007 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  19. steve, Las Vegas, NV

    I have posted many letters and other "FACTS" concerning our founding fathers however, CNN has seen fit to not post them. They did at first but now I find them missing. Imagine that CNN sensoring the truth...

    September 30, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  20. William Jefferson, Florence, Alabama.

    This McCain caracter is so "wishy, washy" in his thought's.

    I just can't believe the stances he takes on letting Mexican illegals come in, and to also vote for all the benefits to go along with their intrusion (breeching our boarders)Now this idiotic statement confirms my thoughts (The North VIETNAMESE must have knocked a screw loose on him during his capture?)he is indeed in need of a shrink!
    He is a screw-ball in his THINKING, and anyone even remotely thinking of him as Presidential Material, is also in need of help too.

    September 30, 2007 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  21. Truth

    The last line of Article 6 of the US Constitution clearly states, “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The founders of our constitution were religious people, but they inserted this critical piece of policy for a good reason.

    September 30, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  22. anon, new york, NY

    Who is the Muslim candidate? Please don't hide and stand up!

    September 30, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    James Madison
    Called the father of the Constitution, Madison had no conventional sense of Christianity. In 1785, Madison wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments:

    "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

    "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

    The U.S. Constitution
    The most convincing evidence that our government did not ground itself upon Christianity comes from the very document that defines it– the United States Constitution.

    If indeed our Framers had aimed to found a Christian republic, it would seem highly unlikely that they would have forgotten to leave out their Christian intentions in the Supreme law of the land. In fact, nowhere in the Constitution do we have a single mention of Christianity, God, Jesus, or any Supreme Being. There occurs only two references to religion and they both use exclusionary wording. The 1st Amendment's says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . ." and in Article VI, Section 3, ". . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:

    "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

    Some Religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and State by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say "freedom of religion," yet the First Amendment implies both.

    As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:

    "Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

    James Madison, perhaps the greatest supporter for separation of church and State, and whom many refer to as the father of the Constitution, also held similar views which he expressed in his letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822:

    "And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

    Today, if ever our government needed proof that the separation of church and State works to ensure the freedom of religion, one only need to look at the plethora of Churches, temples, and shrines that exist in the cities and towns throughout the United States. Only a secular government, divorced from religion could possibly allow such tolerant diversity.

    September 30, 2007 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  24. Johnny Drako

    Shame on McCain, saying our country was founded on Christian principles. Hogwash. You'd think he never read the Federalist Papers. What a disservice to the Founding Fathers. The U.S. was intentionally deisgned to be religion-neutral.

    September 30, 2007 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    The Declaration of Independence
    Many Christians who think of America as founded upon Christianity usually present the Declaration as "proof." The reason appears obvious: the document mentions God. However, the God in the Declaration does not describe Christianity's God. It describes "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." This nature's view of God agrees with deist philosophy but any attempt to use the Declaration as a support for Christianity will fail for this reason alone.
    More significantly, the Declaration does not represent the law of the land as it came before the Constitution. The Declaration aimed at announcing their separation from Great Britain and listed the various grievances with the "thirteen united States of America." The grievances against Great Britain no longer hold, and we have more than thirteen states. Today, the Declaration represents an important historical document about rebellious intentions against Great Britain at a time before the formation of our independent government. Although the Declaration may have influential power, it may inspire the lofty thoughts of poets, and judges may mention it in their summations, it holds no legal power today. Our presidents, judges and policemen must take an oath to uphold the Constitution, but never to the Declaration of Independence.

    Of course the Declaration depicts a great political document, as it aimed at a future government upheld by citizens instead of a religious monarchy. It observed that all men "are created equal" meaning that we all come inborn with the abilities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." The Declaration says nothing about our rights secured by Christianity, nor does it imply anything about a Christian foundation.


    The Framers derived an independent government out of Enlightenment thinking against the grievances caused by Great Britain. Our Founders paid little heed to political beliefs about Christianity. The 1st Amendment stands as the bulkhead against an establishment of religion and at the same time insures the free expression of any belief. The Treaty of Tripoli, an instrument of the Constitution, clearly stated our non-Christian foundation. We inherited common law from Great Britain

    September 30, 2007 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
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