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Sarah Palin Once Again Falsely Asserts That America Was Founded As “Christian Nation”

by @ 11:33 am on May 7, 2010. Filed under History, Politicos & Pundits, Politics, Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was on The O’Reilly Factor yesterday on the occasion of the National Day of Prayer where she once again repeated her assertion that America is a “Christian Nation” and that our laws should be based on the Bible:

Palin, however, views the evolution of America from a strictly Christian nation to a religiously diverse one as “a step towards the fundamental transformation of America” and encouraged people to “keep this clean, keep it simple. Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant– they’re quite clear– that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandents, it’s quite simple.” Creating law based on a specific religion doesn’t sound at all like separation of church and state, but Palin countered that with a message to Americans that do not share her religious background: “Yay, welcome to America!”

There is, of course, plenty of evidence to show that Palin’s assertion that America was intended to be a “Christian Nation” based on the Bible is fundamentally wrong.

For example, there’s this from Article 11 of one of the very first treaties that the United States of America entered into with a foreign power other than Great Britain:

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 [Muslim] 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.

Second, there’s the fact that Palin is historically wrong about the national motto. Until 1956, the United States did not have a national motto established by law, and the only one used was E Pluribus Unum (Out Of Many, One)

Moreover, the argument against the “Christian Nation” myth extend far beyond the Treaty of Tripoli quoted above:

[H]ow about the tenth president, John Tyler, in an 1843 letter: “The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent — that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions.”

Was Tyler too minor a president to be considered an authority on whether the U.S. is a Christian republic or not? Here’s George Washington in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790: “The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support … May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

And, finally, there is very little relationship between the natural rights theories upon which the Declaration and Constitution was founded and Judeo-Christian thought:

In reality, neither Jewish nor Christian traditions know anything of the ideas of natural rights and social contract found in Hobbes, Gassendi and Locke. That’s because those ideas were inspired by themes found in non-Christian Greek and Roman philosophy. Ideas of the social contract were anticipated in the fourth and fifth centuries BC by the sophists Glaucon and Lycophron, according to Plato and Aristotle, and by Epicurus, who banished divine activity from a universe explained by natural forces and taught that justice is an agreement among people neither to harm nor be harmed. The idea that all human beings are equal by nature also comes from the Greek sophists and was planted by the Roman jurist Ulpian in Roman law: “quod ad ius naturale attinet, omnes homines aequales sunt” — according to the law of nature, all human beings are equal.

The sum of what America was really founded upon, of course, isn’t found in theology, or in Sarah Palin’s brain, but in something Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes On The State Of Virginia:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Indeed.

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21 Responses to “Sarah Palin Once Again Falsely Asserts That America Was Founded As “Christian Nation””

  1. Luke Brady says:

    You tweet to much to keep track of any reply attempt on twitter, so here is what I was trying to say.

    You give some very good quotes above, but you miss the point that our Freedoms are not granted by men, but by God, and that our government was established to secure them. That is what Washington says in his Thanksgiving Proclamation:

    “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

    You obviously do not think that is an endorsement of the idea that America is a Christian nation. I’d like you to explain to me where you think our Freedoms come from, if not from God, since that idea is clearly in the Declaration of Independance. And yes, I know, the Declaration of Independence is not the Constitution.

  2. Read John Locke’s Second Treatise On Civil Government

    Read Hobbe’s Leviathan.

    That’s where the Founders derived their ideas of natural rights, and neither of them base their theories on a Christian God

  3. DEO says:

    All I know is basic history, grade school history. We fled England BECAUSE of religious persecution. The United States was established as a place to worship as you please. Each household deciding for themselves whether to worship or not and how to worship and where.
    LEAVE IT ALONE.
    $arah is an idiot. If she says two things in a row, there will be a contradiction.

  4. Luke Brady says:

    http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr01.htm

    “That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood, or by positive donation from God, any such authority over his children, or dominion over the world, as is pretended:”

    You believe a parent does not have rights over their children?

  5. I don’t believe the Adam Myth, try again

  6. Luke Brady says:

    That’s not directly what I was asking. I asked:

    You believe a parent does not have rights over their children?

  7. No, I don’t believe parents have rights over the children.

    Children are separate individuals with their own rights. Parents have a duty to protect them. If they fail in that duty or otherwise harm the child, a third party needs to step in and do what needs to be done

  8. Luke Brady says:

    Do parents have the right to spank their children? Or does that violate the child’s right?

  9. What does that have to do with the topic at hand, Luke ?

  10. ACE says:

    I suppose you have to trust in evolution or creation. Though even most of the believable philosophers in the world admit it must be creation, they for them selves decided to not trust in it. Its all about Faith, Love, and Hope, and LOVE is always the greatest; we should all love each other otherwise. We will all bow down before the judge; it’s up to us when we do, before or after.

  11. Luke Brady says:

    Instead of explaining your objection to my quote from George Washington you suggested I read John Locke’s Second Treatise On Civil Government.

    So, I started reading it, found the first thing I disagreed with and commented on it here. This is what I do when someone asks me to read a massive document in response to my question.

    I’m trying to see where you derive your rights from. If you don’t derive them as being “endowed [to us] by our creator” where do you derive them from? Your answer to that will frame my next point.

  12. The most succinct answer to your question was written by someone other than myself:

    A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

    — Ayn Rand

  13. First problem I have with what you are saying Luke. Nowhere…NOwhere does Washington mention Christ in that speech. He is simply speaking of the bounty granted by God.

    Since the bible itself, both Christian and Hebrew, advocates slavery, I wonder where you get the concept that freedom is given by God.

    I’m surprised you don’t have sore arms from reaching that far out of reality.

  14. Visitor says:

    There is no reason to think that our ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’ come from any supernatural being. Might as well think that the planet Krypton is the source of them as any ‘God’ figure.

    To the extent that we have rights and/or freedoms, it is because we have declared such to be the case, no supernatural entity required.

  15. Luke Brady says:

    I agree with Ayn Rand’s definition.

    But what we don’t agree on is the basis of that moral principle. Liberals today will say Health Care, public transportation, internet access, etc is a moral principle and therefore a right.

    When the definition of a moral principle is based on that of the individual, it is subject to change. I would argue when it is based upon God, it doesn’t change and therefore it is the only moral principle any right can be based on.

    “this nation was founded upon … the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.” — Barry Goldwater (http://www.nationalcenter.org/Goldwater.html)

    Do you discount the Declaration of Independence’ because of it’s references to God?

  16. Luke Brady says:

    @OpinionatedGift Okay, we don’t have to call it a Christian Nation. Come up with another word for Christian and Jews. Call it Judeo-Christian or something else. I’m not concerned with the label or title you give it.

  17. [...] puts it BLUNTLY — “Just Nuts“, he says; Doug Mataconis of Below The Beltway is more than happy to provide factual information The Barracuda might just wish to read and heed regarding her “Judeo-Christian [...]

  18. Johnnyr51 says:

    One nation under “my God” is just another form of totalitarianism. Note the Jihadist’s and the Iranian’s use of Allah to further their less than godly intentions. There is nothing scarier in my mind then to hear Palin’s unrestrained bias for her “own” god and faith at the expense of all the other’s that don’t agree. And the hypocrisy of the so-called “Christians” like Palin is proof positive that “Christian” non-secular motives are as odious as Islam’s non-secularism: being the first to cast stones, failing to turn the other cheek or to be meek, and the outright worship of money (Sarah Fox news, book, reality show, speaking fees >> compared to her little governor’s paycheck?), etc….

    And yes, America was founded precisely by those escaping from religious prosecution who never wanted to be ruled (enslaved) by theocratic totalitarian kings and armies again. It is possible to be Godly, honest, and loving without being Christian Luke…I for one am proof of that.

    Luke is one of the deceived, a partner if you will in a non-secular Christian world view – and he will not, like most Christian’s, believe any amount of evidence contrary to his own. Thomas Jefferson nor Locke nor scientific evidence of evolution, Luke will continue to hammer away at the few anomalies to rational thought and governance until he has chased all debaters away, concluding that he has won when in fact he has merely darkened his own glass even more.

  19. Luke Brady says:

    @Johnnyr51 I noticed how you attacked me and didn’t debate my position. I know the difference.

  20. Jeff from Alaska says:

    America,to my knowledge,was founded by people looking to get rich by finding gold or other valuable minerals.First,by the Spanish,then by the settlers at Jamestown.The pilgrims came later.The founding of America was just another business venture by entrepreneurs looking to exploit the natural resources.Read some Ben Franklin.He disliked organized religion,rarely,if ever attended church and based a lot of his ideas for governance on what he learned as an ambassador,or the like,to the Indian Nation(or Iroquois Federation).

  21. [...] Huckabee has also been quoted as favoring the teaching of so-called intelligent design in science classrooms and said that the Constitution should be amended to be in line with “God’s Law.” As for Palin, during the campaign she displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution’s provisions about the role of religion and was recently quoted as claiming, falsely, that America was founded as a “Christian Nation.” [...]

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