Letter to the Editor

A nation of religious freedom

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Albert Zimmer's assertion in a recent letter that the majority of the Founders of our nation were Christian is accurate, although several of them called themselves Deists or Unitarians privately. But the writers of our nation's Constitution expressly refused to restrict citizens to "the fear of God and adherence to his law as prescribed in Holy Scripture," as Mr. Zimmer contends. Nowhere in the text of the Constitution are the words "God," "Jesus," Lord," "Bible," "Divine Providence" or "the Creator" to be found. In fact, the Constitution directs that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and further states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

In his autobiography, Thomas Jefferson recounts that the Virginia Legislature was asked to put the words "Jesus Christ" into the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, but "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." As Jefferson explained it, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only 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."

The greatness of the U.S. lies not in Christianity, valuable as that faith and others can be when well-lived. We were not conceived as a Christian nation. We are instead a nation in which each person is free to worship according to his or her own conscience. That tolerance is perhaps our greatest strength.

IDA L. DOMAZLICKY, Cape Girardeau