THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION

The First Charter of Virginia in 1606 states in pertinent part the purpose of the new settlement:

“[S]o noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion…”

Fourteen years later in 1620 the Pilgrims formulated the Mayflower Compact, stating their purpose, to wit:

“Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith … a Voyage to plant the first Colony …”

While the First Charter of Virginia and the Mayflower Compact established the advancement of Christianity as the dominant purpose of the new settlements, how were the new Christian Colonies to be governed? This question was answered by Reverend Thomas Hooker, who stated in a 1638 sermon that:

“The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.”

Reverend Hooker’s prescient statement that the proper authority of a free people must be laid upon the consent of the people resonated with the men in Connecticut where Reverend Hooker lived. However, his statement ran contrary to the dominant government structures in place during that time period, which were then dominated by an assemblage of tsars, monarchs, and emperors who gained authority not from the consent of the people, but rather through inheritance or conquest.

Thus, it took Christian courage for the men of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield, Connecticut to take heart in Reverend Hooker’s declaration of a new governmental structure based upon the “free consent of people,” when they met in 1839 to formulate the Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven.

But the question remained for the brave men of Connecticut in 1839:  Without a czar, without a monarch, without an emperor, where would they gain sufficient guidance to run their new government. Therefore, they asked themselves the following question in what they termed Query I:

“Whether the scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction of government of all men in their duties which they are to perform to GOD and men,…?”

 

Their answer was a unanimous Yes, with “no man dissenting, as was expressed by holding up of hands.”

 

Thus, Connecticut, the Constitution State, set a Christian standard in the development of a new governing structure. Reverend Thomas Hooker’s statement in his Christian sermon that, “The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people,” led the Christian founding men of Connecticut to lay the foundation of government in the free consent of the people. They also decided unanimously to secure direction in the operation of their government from Holy Scriptures -- while their goal was to serve GOD and men. Even today, Connecticut is recognized as the ‘Constitution State’ due to their development of a government run by “the free consent of people.”

Reverend Hooker’s formation of the concept of self-governance, and the men of Connecticut’s strong and worthy adherence to Holy Scriptures for guidance, they set a strong bedrock base of Christianity as the guiding force in the formation of the original colonies.

Then, in the late 1700’s, one of the dominant legal minds was that of William Blackstone. Blackstone insisted that man“must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being.” Blackstone also asserted that divine law must be added to natural law, and that divine law could only be ascertained through “holy scriptures.”

The signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, in reliance on the strong foundation of Christianity set by the colonial settlers, and with a solid schooling in Blackstone’s understanding that the Holy Scriptures were necessary for a full and just legal foundation, signed the Declaration of Independence which started with the following words in large print:

We the People

 

The Declaration of Independence stated that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness were to be protected by a government which would derive its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Declaration of Independence was a Christian document, for the men who signed it appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world” for the purity of their motives, and prayed for “the protection of divine Providence in beginning the new experiment in self-governance.”

Some years later, on October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation which established the last Thursday in November as a national holiday in the United States of America. The proclamation was beautifully penned by the artful hand of Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward. The stated purpose of the Thanksgiving Proclamation was to recognize the simple gifts of our mere existence by "solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledge(ing) as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People…a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Additionally, the Thanksgiving Proclamation called on Americans to pray for "the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

Thanksgiving was designed as a time for giving Thanks to The Father, and to His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the life They have given to all of us! The timing of the Thanksgiving Proclamation --- during the middle of a conflagration so fierce that it risked tearing this nation to threads --- is consistent with the message given by President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, shortly after he signed the Thanksgiving Proclamation. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln implored Americans to “take increased devotion” such that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

You are sure to call to your remembrance that President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address referenced all the way back to the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, Justice Brewer of the United States Supreme Court recognized a number of founding documents and facts in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. in 1892. He found dispositive evidence that the totality of American life has “a universal language pervading [it] all, having one meaning. [To] affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people… [That in] American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth ... that this is a Christian nation.”

Thus, let us all recognize that for those of us who hold America dear, that from 1606 and the First Charter of Virginia, to 1620 and the Mayflower Compact, to 1639 and the Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, to October of 1863 and the Thanksgiving Proclamation, to November of 1863 and the Gettysburg Address, and to 1892 and the Supreme Court decision in Trinity Church v. U.S, that the United States of America is a Christian nation, indeed!

By Patrick Gould

Patrick Gould is a former Law Professor and Lawyer