A response to a Christian Nation theorist

Dennis Brady

Dennis Brady

Who is Dennis Brady? “[A] Concerned American Conservative Libertarian who loves his God, country, his heritage and the US Constitution.”  His writing are found in his “Blog of Constitutional Libertarian Opinions and Historical Reflections”

In his most recent blog posting, titled “America 2011: God No Longer Needed, Religion Banned from the Public Square,” Mr. Brady is upset with the United States and President Obama’s decision to bury Osama Bin Laden at sea in accordance to Islamic belief. He wrote:

I found this ironic in light of the Obama administration’s distaste of any affirmation of religion, especially any that affirms our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage. 

I am not exactly sure from where that comes. Many organizations wishing stricter Church/State separation were highly upset when the President hosted the annual National Day of Prayer breakfasts in 2009, 2010 and 2011. As my dad would say, if both sides are upset, the President must be doing something right.

As with many Christian nation theorists, Mr. Brady provides his proofs in terms of court decision and quotes from our founders.  My upcoming book discusses these very proofs.

A Christian Nation? An objective evaluation of objective evidence was written not to defame or demoralize the Christian faith or those who believe in the various Christian nation theories. Its purpose was to find and evaluate each objective proof provided in terms of authenticity, validity, accuracy and context.

One of the proofs from Mr. Brady is one of the most used by the Christian nation theorists, Church of the Holy Trinity v.U.S., 143 U.S. 266 (1892). Brady wrote:

In 1892, the Court gave what is known as the Trinity Decision. In that decision, Justice Brewer, who delivered the opinion of the Court, gave the basis for the Court’s conclusion: “this is a Christian nation.” John Quincy Adams said, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was, it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” The Court concluded that only an “absurd” application of the Constitution would allow a restriction on Christianity.

I can say from my own research, reading the case law and decision, this is not quite correct. Foremost, John Quincy Adams was not mentioned in this decision.

The entire quote, as use as proof, reads: No purpose of action against any religion can be imputed to any legislation, State or national, because this is a religious people… this is a Christian nation.

As I write in A Christian Nation?:

Trinity v. US (143 U.S. 457)[i] dealt with a very interesting issue, whether a contract between a religious society incorporated in the United States and a citizen of another country was legal under “The Act of February 26, 1880.”

The statute said that it was designed “to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia,” 23 Stat. 332, c. 164.[ii], [iii]  This case argued the legal dilemma on whether a church in New York could contract with a minister in England to bring that minister to New York to perform his duties.

In reading the basis of the legal action, it appears that this case could have been brought to the court whether or not a religious society was involved. The contract could have been with a haberdasher, a blacksmith with specific skills, or an artisan skilled in making wooden furniture. The contracting organization could have been a church, town, school, or private business. It is just happenstance that in this case a church was contracting a new minister from England.

Religion became a centering point of Holy Trinity v. US only in the arguments, but is taken by the proponents of the Christian nation theories as a major proof. The court decision talks only in terms of whether a religious order’s contract was within or outside the scope of the law. The court, in its deliberation, said “beyond all these matters, no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people.” (Page 143 U. S. 465)

I continue this section by stating;

It is unfortunate that those who see this court case as one that supports their views that the United States is a Christian nation misrepresent the text of the ruling. The two statements provided by the proponents are a strange mix and out of context with the ruling. The first does not follow the second, in paragraph or page. There is a large section of the ruling that is conveniently left out.

In this case, as a commentary, I cannot even say the quote… is close. It is a misrepresentation of the statements, removing the context to justify a political position.

The opening quote is not accurate either in context or in its interpretation by the Christian nation proponents. The statement read in full and in context, in fact says that the idea that a church is involved is not the issue. The issue was contract law.

The decision’s statements concerning religion and absurdity are not the in the final decision but as a result of testimony given in the case.

Mr. Brady concludes this column with a number of quotes from the Founders. Some are misrepresented (the Adams’ quote is not from John, but Abigail in a letter to a friend), or are personal statements of belief and government, not a national statement.

Mr. Brady needs to once more read the only document that counts, the Constitution of the United States. God is not mentioned in any context, except for “year of our lord;” religion is mentioned twice, once that prohibits religion from being a qualifier for a elected or appointed position, andsecond in the First Amendment.

When asked if the Christian Nation theorist are perpetuating a lie, my answer is usually “I do not think so.” Most, and I can only assume that Mr. Brady fit into this bracket, have never taken the time to read the documents they quote. They have received their information from individuals (news, Web sites, pulpits, et cetera) who are believed to be authorities, who may have never read the original documents either.

It is unfortunate that this lack of critical thinking and due diligence, from which no one is immune, if so pervasive. We do not teach the art of thinking in our schools, including most private schools, because teachers are more concerned about standardized testing, or religion.

Return to Inkandvoice.com

[i] “Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U. S. 457 (1892).” Justia.com. U.S. Supreme court Center, Web. 24 Dec 2010. <http://supreme.justia.com/us/143/457/case.html&gt;.
[ii] “Title 8, Chapter 6, Subchapter 11.” legal Information Institute. Cornell University School of Law, Web. 24 Dec 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/8/usc_sec_08_00000137—b000-.html&gt;
[iii] This section was repealed June 27, 1952

About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Christianity, Church and State, Conspiracy Theories, Constitution, Deism, Islam, Jewish, Political Commentary, Religion, US and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A response to a Christian Nation theorist

  1. Pandora says:

    Fascinating. I will definitely want to read your book. With the huge quantity of writing out there, especially on the internet, it is daunting to verify if something is true, manipulated, or just pain wrong.

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