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Independence Day is not a religious holiday and the United States not a Christian nation.

Independence Day is not a religious holiday and the United States not a Christian nation.

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on theChristian religion…” – The Treaty of Tripoli

The Treaty of Tripoli was submitted to the Senate by  President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797. It was then signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

Today is Independence Day here in the United States.  Unfortunately, many of our citizens have little or no understanding of the purpose behind the American Revolutionary War. They do not understand why we endured those bloody battles or the reason we decided that we could no longer be part of the Monarchy of United Kingdom in its form at the time. There are many in this country that have either chosen to ignore, were taught incorrectly or simply were never told why we felt it mandatory to dissolve our connection to the British Monarchy and its history of repeated violations to the basic human rights of those under its rule.

Crown Royal…

Perhaps these people need to be reminded that those under Crown rule at that time were the subjects of absolute tyranny, and that the Monarchy was hostile to what was wholesome and necessary for  the public good. Perhaps they forgot that the residents of the original thirteen colonies were denied protection unless they agreed to relinquish the right of  representation. Perhaps they forgot how fortunate we are to have a representative government that checks and balances itself and does not allow for entire legislative bodies to be relieved of their duties because they are not in agreement with a supreme ruler. Perhaps they do not realize what it meant to be under martial law, even in times of peace, and that the members of a standing army were held immune to prosecution no matter how heinous the crimes against the Subjects of the Crown were.

Contrary to what many believe, the American Revolution was not about taxes alone and it had nothing at all to do with establishing a Christian nation. As the Declaration so aptly states, it was about being deprived of such things as the benefits of trial by jury, for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and  altering fundamentally the forms government without any input from the people.  It was about the Crown suspending it’s own legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate in all cases whatsoever. It was about the ability of the Monarchy to wage war on it’s own citizens and, without reservation, to plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, and  destroy the lives of our ancestors without any judicial or legislative regulation.

Grievances…

GeorgeIIIThe list of charges levied toward the Monarchy, and specifically King George III, in the body of the Declaration are numerous and largely unknown by our own citizenry. The crimes against humanity that were committed by the Crown were egregious and many. But instead of recognizing the Declaration of Independence as an important document stating our insistence to individual freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it has been relegated by the religious right as a weapon to promote their desire to bring the United States back to a form of government that is almost identical to the one we originally fought so hard to be free of. The sole purpose of the Declaration was to “dissolve the  political bands,” not to set up a religious nation. Its authority is based on the idea  that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers  from the consent of the governed,” which is contrary  to the biblical  concept of the Theocracy that the Religious Right would impose upon us.

Fundamentalist Christians work hard to convince us that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on  “biblical  principles.” History does not support this. Aside from the fact that a vast majority of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not bible-believing Christians, we are governed by the Constitution, which is a secular document and very purposely begins with “We the people” and of equal purpose does not contain any mention of God or Christianity.  Its only references to religion are exclusionary and the very first amendment made to our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an  establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In fact, the presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the  Constitution, does not contain the phrase “so help me God” or any  requirement to swear on a bible

Tripoli Expanded…

The 1797 Treaty with Tripoli  declares that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense,  founded on the Christian religion” and was written under Washington’s presidency and approved by the Senate under John Adams. In fact, the author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist  and vehemently opposed to  orthodox Christianity as well as the supernatural.  The famous quote of Thomas  Jefferson, which includes the phrase “a wall of separation between  church and state” was part of a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. They had asked President Jefferson to explain the First Amendment, to  which he replied, “the  legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.

Our government has no right to promulgate religion. The Supreme and lower courts have used  Jefferson’s “wall of separation” phrase repeatedly in major decisions upholding neutrality in matters of religion. In 1971, referencing the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision, the Supreme Courtforged what is known as the “Three  Part Lemon Test” to determine if a law is permissible under the  First-Amendment religion clause.

  1. A law must have a secular purpose.
  2. It must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  3. It must avoid excessive entanglement of church and state.

The billboards that are popping up all over the country that exclude “Under God” from a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance are very patriotic and true to the principles that our country was founded upon, which is contrary to the propaganda of the Religious Right, many in the GOP and just about all of the Tea Baggers. The United States of America is NOT one nation under  God, but one nation under a Constitution. The Declaration of Independence served an honorable purpose and paved the way for the drafting of our awesome Constitution, which was immediately and specifically amended with the Bill of Rights to uphold individual and  minority rights. The fact that a majority of our citizens are Christian does not make us a Christian nation and on constitutional matters there is no majority rule. The majority has no right to tyrannize the minority on matters  such as race, gender, or religious belief or the lack of religious belief. The wisest policy is the constitutional one, and that is neutrality.

Impunity…

SpoiledThe religious right is behaving like petulant, spoiled children. Nobody is deprived of worship in America. Tax-exempt religious organizations are everywhere. The state has almost no say about private religious beliefs and practices. The Christian Fundamentalists are behaving like the Monarchy was in the Revolutionary days and they cannot even see it because they are blinded by their own ignorance. They seem to have forgotten that the “due process” 14th Amendment assures no public official from the governor all the way down to the public school employee may violate the human rights embodied in our Constitution. At every level, the government must respect the  separation of church and state.

The billboards that remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance reflect the fact that those words did not appear until 1954, under McCarthyism, which was not one our finer moments as a  nation. Likewise, “In God We Trust” was absent from paper currency before 1956. Our original motto chosen by John  Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was “E Pluribus Unum” (Of  Many, One) and was meant to celebrate plurality, not Theocracy.

I also remind those who believe  that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments that the first four  Commandments are religious edicts having nothing to do with law or  ethical behavior. Only three (homicide, theft, and perjury) are relevant  to current American law, and have existed in cultures long before  the fictional character of Moses was invented.  It’s ironic that during this recession if we honored the commandment against “coveting,” it would cause our entire economy  to completely collapse.

Secular Nation…

Our secular laws are based on the secular humanist principle of “justice for all” and they provide protection  against crimes that our secular government enforces through a secular  criminal justice system. The religious fanatics are  ignoring history, law and fairness in their efforts to turn America into the Christian nation that it never was. Fundamentalist Christians would like nothing more than to deny the constitutional freedoms that are guaranteed to all Americans, including non-Christian religious minorities and unbelievers. What they refuse to acknowledge is that history shows that only  harm comes of uniting church and state. The aforementioned actions of the religious right are mirroring the tyranny of the 18th century British Monarchy only prove that ignorance of history results in it’s repetition.

AdamsAmerica has never been a Christian nation. It was not founded on Christian or Biblical principles. The founding fathers were not all Christians. We are and must remain, at all costs, a free nation. Anne Gaylor, Co-President of theFreedom From Religion Foundation points out: “There can be no religious freedom  without the freedom to dissent.” As Americans, we must continue to uphold the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon.  As Atheists, we must work against the real enemies of the state, those who would see our great Nation transformed into a Theocracy.

While we are eating our barbecue this afternoon and watching the fireworks tonight, it would do good to remember that the blessings we enjoy as Americans do not come from some imaginary being, but from the guarantees that are set forth in our secular Constitution.  There is no room in this holiday for the arrogance of religion and the  doctrine that a “chosen few” who walk some ridiculous “narrow path” are  responsible for what this nation is, nor that our problems have anything to do with a lack of religious belief by any of our Citizens.

Independence day is not a religious holiday. We are a secular nation and it is a uniquely secular holiday.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1546749407 Maureen Hart

    Happy Independence Day, America !

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  • honeymoonie

    Apostate Al is at it again.I don't recall anyone claiming Independence Day a religious holiday.But, America is indeed a Christian nation and indeed always has been by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of its people are and always have been Christian.And no pedantic sophistries by AA et al change that fact.How amazing that the only religion attacked on this site is Christianity.

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