I am not a fan of the religion of Islam.  I had only one close Muslim friend Mohammed.  It was after 9-11 and he taught me about the customs and history of Islam, which is a fascinating religion.  He did this because he needed friends.  He was in fear of what we now call American Exceptionalism and our xenophobia.

On the Republican  (GOP-sanctioned) Presidential stage in November and December 2015, candidates were not acting very presidential or very constitutional with their attacks on Muslims and Mexicans.  They were not displaying leadership but rather a sheepish followership from a scared national populace afraid and ignorant of ISIS, ISIL, etc.   People fueled by Tea Party bigotry (66% of D.J. Trump’s supporters say that Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country; and Trump has 38% of the Republican vote).

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.  Pastor Martin Niemöller (Germany 1892–1984).

So we see how this intolerance escalates.

It blinds those that we once considered good and reasonable people.

How is it that these people who consider themselves DEVOUT CHRISTIANS do not follow Christianity’s precepts of: love, peace, goodwill and love thy neighbor?

How is it that these people born in a country founded on religious freedom can preach such intolerance and hate?

How is it that these people who may have had to work hard deny this right to others because of skin color or religion?

How is it that these people who may have had to overcome prejudice in their lives because they were poor, young, old, sick at one time in the past—now pull up the ladder behind them and say the most unkind things about others?

Why have they forgotten all of their teachings?

Then who is it that benefits from all of this upheaval in the natural order of things?  Who is it that will make money off of this or will gain power from it?

I find that the following book review may help to EXPLAIN:

One Nation Under God: Was The Rise Of The Religious Right A Reaction To The New Deal?

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. Basic Books 352 pp.

July/August 2015

Books & Ideas

By Sarah Jones


For advocates of the separation of church and state, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that the concept of “Judeo-Christian America” is a myth, and a relatively recent one at that. In his latest book, Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse reveals the economic and political roots of its origin story.

Previous entries in this field, including Peter Man­seau’s One Nation, Under Gods (see the April issue of Church & State) and Mat­thew Stewart’s Nature’s God examine America’s history of religious and intellectual diversity. Kruse takes a slightly different tack. He assumes the reader already understands that the Religious Right’s vision of a monolithically Christian America is false and focuses his time instead on examining the political motivations of that myth’s earliest creators.

It begins, as most political stories do, with money. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal promised to lift working Americans out of the grips of the Great Depression. Roos­evelt’s progressive policies endeared him to many in the working class, but lots of profit-minded business leaders identified the New Deal as an imminent threat to their economic interests. That put them at odds not only with the president and with workers but with Christian ministers, many of whom largely supported the humanitarian mission of FDR’s reforms.

Disgruntled businessmen identified a solution that established the framework for what we now call the Religious Right: Recruit ministers, and their flocks will follow. Early in the first chapter, Kruse quotes a speech by H.W. Prentis, then the president of the National Association of Manufacturers: “Economic facts are important, but they will never check the virus of collectivism. The only antidote is a revival of Am­erican patriotism and religious faith.”

Prentis and his peers in the business community quickly found allies in the church. Congregationalist minister James W. Fifield Jr., fond of liberal theology and libertarian politics, emerged as their most diligent and effective clergy partner.

Fifield’s tactics should be familiar to any dedicated observer of the contemporary Religious Right. Via his Los Angeles church, he built alliances with prominent Hollywood figures and businessmen. In 1935, he founded Spiritual Mobilization, advertised as a means to encourage “ministers of all denominations in America to check the trends toward pagan stateism, which would destroy our basic freedom and spiritual ideals.”

In practice, Spiritual Mobilization organized ministers into a formidable grassroots force. They first directed their efforts at the dismantling of the New Deal. But they didn’t stop there: In 1951, the ministers formed the Committee to Proclaim Liberty. Ostensibly, they organized the Committee to hold “Free­dom Under God” celebrations marking the Fourth of July.

But these celebrations weren’t just about the founding of our nation. Kruse writes that Committee members were overwhelmingly Republican fiscal conservatives. With help from corporate sponsors, the Committee mailed postcards to tens of thousands of clergy supporters, urging them to celebrate “Independence Sunday” in honor of the holiday in their Sunday sermons. Clergy were specifically encouraged to preach against the dangers of socialism – and for the spiritual reform of government.

Kruse dedicates significant space to dissecting Fifield’s mission and work, and given the influence Spiritual Mobilization and its affiliated organizations eventually wielded over the politics of the era, that makes sense. Fifield married libertarian economics to Christian nationalism and by doing so, created the initial momentum needed to drum up popular support for an America governed by sectarian impulses.

Despite his pivotal role in politicizing American Christianity, the minister isn’t as famous as one of his younger contemporaries: Billy Graham.

Kruse pays special attention to Graham’s relationship with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Graham’s star couldn’t rise without powerful support, and Eisenhower proved a natural ally. The young evangelist played an instrumental role in encouraging the World War II hero to run for president. Once on the campaign trail, Eisenhower didn’t hesitate to insert his personal beliefs into his campaign for the White House.

With the support of Graham, Fifield’s Spiritual Mobilization and other financial and spiritual luminaries, Eisenhower secured a landslide electoral victory. After winning the presidency, he continued to seek Graham’s guidance, telling him, “I think one of the reasons I was elected was to help lead this country spiritually.”

In a speech made shortly thereafter, Eisenhower announced that “our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply-felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Eisenhower backed those pronouncements with demonstrations of what we now typically call “Ceremonial Deism.” In partnership with the Freedoms Foundation – another Christian libertarian group founded by Fifield allies – Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover designed the “Credo of the American Way of Life.”

The credo depicted a tower with “Political and Economic Rights” at the top, and at the bottom, acting as the foundation, “Fundamental Belief in God.” Eisenhower incorporated the cre­do into his campaign rhetoric, and ac­cording to Kruse, even considered erecting a statue of it in Washington, D.C.

The credo may have been symbolic, but its message quickly manifested itself in real policies. As president, Eisenhower attended the first National Prayer Breakfast and continued the National Day of Prayer, first declared by his predecessor, Harry S. Truman. He also signed bills that added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and declared “In God We Trust” to be the national motto.

At the time, these measures largely met with approval from a devout American public. As Kruse notes, organizations like Americans United and smaller groups did raise some concerns about the constitutional implications of “Ceremonial Deism.” But it took legal action to restrict the more blatant violations inherent in the practice.

Kruse recounts in thorough detail the landmark Supreme Court rulings that established public schools as religiously neutral zones. This information is likely familiar to readers of Church & State, so I won’t dwell on it here. Kruse’s handling of these famous legal battles is noteworthy, however, and sets the book apart from other takes on the conflicts in question.

Kruse segues neatly from the rise of a distinctly political Christianity to battles over school prayer. The crusade for Christian America, tirelessly waged by Eisenhower, Graham, Fifield and others, marched inexorably into public schools. Legal battles eventually coalesced around mandatory classroom Bible readings and coercive prayer. Both practices fell well within the precedent established by this proto-Religious Right, but the courts ruled them unconstitutional. Two key rulings, Engel v. Vitale and Abington Township School District v. Schempp, put a definitive end to the official endorsement of Christianity by public schools.

These decisions obviously had important ramifications for religious freedom. But the public backlash to them is arguably just as important. Within the context of the Cold War, secular public schools seemed little removed from the anti-religious communism of the Soviet Union. To Americans who had been won over by Fifield and company’s version of a uniformly Christian and capitalist country, these verdicts attacked a sacred national character.

That fury is likely what kept Spiritual Mobilization from becoming a relic and spurred the formation of the contemporary Religious Right.

To borrow a term from late sociologist Charles Tilly, Fifield and his allies created a repertoire of contention, a sort of tactical script that provided a template for future sectarian activism. The Religious Right’s current incarnation is irrevocably shaped by that repertoire and by the central conflict it espouses: God-fearing free enterprise in endless war with godless collectivism.

Kruse’s book will be an important resource for anyone who wonders why so many fundamentalist figureheads – clergy and politicians alike – promote fiscal conservatism alongside social conservatism. By extension, it also explains why the Religious Right continues to benefit from a remarkable financial war chest. Finally, it provides a timely look at the political origins of Ceremonial Deism and, in the process, undermines claims that the practice isn’t intended to exclude Americans who belong to minority belief traditions or are non-believers.

These lessons are especially valuable right now. The 2016 race for the White House has officially commenced, and the Religious Right’s repertoire is already in play. Perhaps the overarching theme of Kruse’s book is a simple one: Everything old is new again.


WHM: Or these writings:

“One Nation Under God?” + American History magazine for April 2007:

There is perhaps no more personal issue than religion, and there are few things that Americans will defend more passionately than their right to believe as they choose. Freedom of religion is the first right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. While Americans cherish this right, there is wide disagreement about where, exactly the line between church and state belongs. American History looks at the origins of an issue that is central to our national character but remains divisive to this day.

Liberty for the Soul


A biography of Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island and Providence, is presented. He was born circa 1603 in London, England and studied at Cambridge University and received his bachelor’s degree. He was a devout separatist and was allied with the Puritans in his early career as a minister. He arrived with his wife, Mary, in the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1631 and was banished for his radical religious views a few years later. He settled in Narragansett Bay and became a founder of the Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. His charter guaranteed religious freedom for all within the colony.

One Nation Under God or One Nation Without God

To the extent possible under law,

Daniel Piccirillo has waived all

copyright, moral rights, database rights, and any

other rights that might be asserted over this work.

Daniel Piccirillo

March 25th, 2008

NNHS Class of 2009

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the

homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear.

— Thomas Jefferson

Is the United States a nation under God, or a nation without God? Debate continues to this day

over the influence of religion in government. With the appropriate historical context in mind, the fact that the separation of church and state provides everyone with freedom and equality and that the “founding fathers” of our nation had this in mind becomes undeniably evident. The American

“founding fathers” could refer to anyone who had a key place in establishing the country for what it is today but that would have to include “every signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States — indeed, every governor and every member of every ratifying state

legislature.” 1 Here the term is used to address the key figures who’s great minds shaped the

fundamental ideas from which this country was founded upon. Specifically, the term is used throughout

this paper to refer to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas

Paine. From the beginning, the “founding fathers” intended not to keep religion strictly out of

government, nor to establish the United States as a Christian nation, but to preserve equality and protect

the individual liberties of all people regardless of their religious beliefs, ethnic background, or political


The concept of separation between church and state is officially established in the founding

documents of the United States. Article IV section 3 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “No religious test

shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” 2 This is

meant to keep people from being put into office, or not put into office, based on their religion. The First

Amendment in the Bill of Rights begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of

religion.” 3 This explicitly marks what has come to be known through the courts as the “wall of

separation” between church and state. These two documents upon which the country was directly

1 Norman Cousins, “In God We Trust” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), 2

2 Constitution of the United States, http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-

experience/charters/constitu tion_transcript.html

3 Bill of Rights, http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

founded give no mention of any God. Surely, there must be some danger in allowing government and

religion to mix, and the authors of these documents were conscious of it.

Advocates and opponents of the separation between church and state have become intensely

polarized in their conflicting views. One side says the other is hostile to religion, while the opposite

says that the other is intractable to it. 4 Each side feels that they are losing and the issue becomes even

more polarized. Both sides try to pin the “founding fathers” and documents of the nation as supporting

their own views, when the issue is not for or against any particular religion, but rather about religious

freedom. Religiously motivated revisionists attempt to reinterpret the constitutional history of our

nation, recast our collective history, and produce a myth of an Evangelical Christian foundation by

putting a lot of time, energy, and money into pursuing their agenda. 5 Those who want religion entirely

removed from government, and those who want religion tightly woven into government, both fail to

understand how separation of church and state exists to protect their own freedom of, as well as from,

religion. Devoutly religious and adamantly nonreligious people alike have the First Amendment to

thank for their freedom to practice and hold to their own beliefs. It is essential to consider the historical

context of the issue to genuinely understand the “founding fathers'” true intentions and to see the

importance of keeping church and state separate.

Dispute continues between these two polar groups often without the necessary historical context

behind the separation. To be able to better analyze and understand the founding documents, it is

important to view the issue with the appropriate context from the time of the “founding fathers.” At the

time of the nation’s founding, church and state indeed were not separate. States did sponsor their own

churches, but it was realized by the founders of the country, that religion in the colonies, nonuniform as

4 A conversation with Jon Meacham, One Nation Under God? In Good Faith and Good Will, American History Vol. 42,

No. 1 (April 2007), 32-39

5 Gregory W. Hamilton, Religious Pluralism and America’s Christian Nation Debate, Liberty: Magazine of Religious

Freedom (Sept./Oct. 2007), 8

it was, “was becoming so pluralized that an establishment of religion could mean little more than public

financial support and preference for one ‘denomination’ of Christians.” 6 Not only were there the major

differences in religion regionally, but there were also the differences within those regions. Everyone

was from different groups with different religious backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks. They all

belonged to different divisions and subdivisions, branches and subbranches of religions. There was no

way to unite everyone under one church, so it was decided that churches would no longer be

government funded. 7 This religious plurality actually provided strength, not weakness. It was pointed

out by various individuals like Jefferson that “what was true for America politically was true in the

reverse spiritually. In politics it was: United we stand, divided we fall. In religion: Divided we stand,

united we fall.” 8

The “founding fathers” did not want the country to operate under the control or direct influence

of a religion. They understood the problems associated with a theocracy. The country was founded with

the intention of securing freedom for all individuals in their beliefs, practices, thoughts, and words.

They knew that religious freedom was necessary to protect people from church legislation against

dissenters and an inevitable contest for power between different denominations. The freedom not to

worship is necessary because if government controlled this, then it could soon control how and where

worship would be. This would be unacceptable even to many religious people. The “founding fathers”

simply could not approve of a federal church.

American settlers made their journey under the impression that they were leaving behind the

tyrannies in Europe, but Colonial America had almost all of the very same forms of persecution. The

Bill of Rights was put in place specifically for the purpose of putting an end to that. One example is in

6 John E. Wilson & Donald L. Drakeman, Church and State in American History (Colorado: Westview Press, 2003), 37

7 Jacoby, 31

8 Cousins, 6

Puritan Massachusetts, Quakers were banished and those who stayed or returned were killed. 9 Our

constitutional freedoms are just as much a result of the religious monopolies and oppression here, as

that in Europe.

Leading up to, and some time after the founding of the nation was a period marked by

propagating nonreligious freethought and religious dissent. 10 The church reacted to the dissemination of

secular ideas just like it did the Enlightenment. Consequently, there was a huge religious push to regain

ground. From 1850-1906, spending for the construction of churches tripled. 11 The colonies had a

dynamic culture and only 5% of Americans had formal ties to a church or synagogue in 1790 compared

to 43% in 1910. 12 The “founding fathers” were products of this time of spreading freethought. They

were the Enlightenment thinkers of their time.

On the polar opposites of this debate are those who believe that the “founding fathers” were

evangelicals and those who believe that they were atheists. Neither are correct. None of the “founding

fathers” were evangelicals or atheists. They were deists and freethinkers. Most of them may have

considered themselves Christian, as most people of the time did, but that only meant that they valued

some aspects of Christianity and believed in the importance of Jesus Christ just as those who were only

considered deists at the time did. It was understood in a literal sense, and did not mean that they were

very religious people in the dogmatic sense.

The forefathers varied on how religious they were. Thomas Paine was very anti-religious and

had very much to say about it, although he was a deist. Benjamin Franklin valued virtue above all else,

but did believe that religion had a lot to do with virtue. John Adams was religious, but he was a

Unitarian Universalist. Thomas Jefferson was truly a freethinker. He did not blindly follow religion and

9 Cousins, 11

10 Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers: a history of American secularism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004), 14

11 Jacoby, 151

12 Jacoby, 151

was actually skeptical of it. As a whole, they all opposed creed-based dogmatic religion.

In response to Britain’s repeal of an old law that made it a crime to deny the existence of the

Holy Trinity, John Adams wrote the following in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1813.

We can never be so certain of any Prophecy, or the fulfillment of any Prophecy; or of any

miracle, or the design of any miracle as We are, from the revelation of nature i.e. natures God

that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten us to say that We

believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But We should not believe it. We should know the contrary. 13

Here he says that religion can lie and therefore we should not put religion above reason. This is why

government and religion cannot operate together. It would be too dangerous. The potential for the

government to become corrupt and take advantage of people’s faith is too great.

Both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson opposed a proposal by Reverend Jasper Adams for

the government to sponsor Christianity 14 The United States was intended to be free for all people,

regardless of culture, ethnicity, language, or religion. An exceptional quote by Thomas Jefferson to the

Virginia baptists in 1808 gives a good idea of how he saw the issue.

Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom

of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support

themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights.

Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and

leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,”

therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting

question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to

the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving

every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of

his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries. 15

This raises excellent points about church and state. Churches should not need government power to

support themselves and could easily take advantage of that power, were it given to them, to force their

views on people. History holds much proof of that. The separation of church and state is a necessary

protection of an individual’s freedom to believe in and practice their own religious or non-religious

13 Jacoby, 13

14 Hamilton, 8

15 Freethoughtpedia, Was the United States founded on Christianity? (January 2008)

beliefs. Notable people throughout American history, including very religious persons, have explained


Roger Williams was an English theologian who believed strongly in his religious views as well

as the separation of church and state. His belief was that each person should have the freedom to chose

their own beliefs and that people should be individual believers, not followers of those who hold the

power in society 16 As religious as he was, he knew that religion was not something to be forced upon

people and that true religion was embraced by people of their own free will.

President Abraham Lincoln was presented with a petition for a Christian government and he, as

well as Congress, denied taking any action to Christianize the Constitution, and Congress would

continue to essentially waive the proposal year after year. 17 It was simply much too controversial and

was bound to lead to dividing the people. He was trying to restore peace and order after the Civil War

and the last thing he needed was more divisive fighting over the passionate feelings held about religion.

President John F. Kennedy, the only practicing Roman Catholic to ever be elected president,

said the following in one of his remarks on church and state.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic

prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister

would tell his parishioners for whom to vote — where no church or church school is granted any

public funds or political preference — and where no man is denied public office merely because

his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect

him. 18

The underlying message in his words is that religion should not be a concern of government and people

should not be put into office based on their beliefs. The United States government is a secular

institution that serves to maintain order in society, not to impose morals, through legislation. Laws are

16 Glenn W. LaFantasie, One Nation Under God? Liberty for the Soul, American History, Vol. 42, No. 1 (April 2007), 22-


17 Jacoby, 106

18 Wilson et al, 189

passed for the purpose of governing people in a changing society and officials are put into office for

making the best decisions for their role. Religious beliefs are not relevant to one’s ability to do that job.

Much of the argument today is based on the Christian majority, but a Christian majority does

not make a Christian nation. The United States is a free nation and a nation of equality. What would a

Christian nation mean for all those Americans who are not Christian? Are they really any less

American because of their religious beliefs? Reverend John Leland, a “hell-fire preaching colonial

Baptist from Virginia” wrote that “the notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded

forever.” 19 He argued that,

Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not

abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is

despicable; it supposes that some have a preeminence above the rest to grant indulgence,

whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians. 20

His point was that people of all religion should be more than just “tolerated.” Toleration only means

that they are accepted, in the weakest meaning of the word, but they should all be equals. This,

alongside freedom, is what the separation of church and state provides- equality.

Without the separation of church and state, the state could corrupt the church, as feared by

Roger Williams, or the church could corrupt the state, as feared by Thomas Jefferson. 21 Separation

between church and state, as outlined in “Patterns of Church-State Relations” by John Coleman

Bennett, gives three important protections: freedom of the church from state, freedom of the state from

church control, and church independence. 22

19 Hamilton, 8+

20 Hamilton, 8+

21 Wilson et al, 172

22 Wilson et al, 180

“Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace,

commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; … freedom of

religion,” are all principals of the United States outlined by Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural

address in March of 1801. 23 Separation of church and state exists to protect those principals for the

benefit of everyone and that was the intention of the “founding fathers.” The United States is neither a

nation under God, nor a nation without one, but a nation of liberty and equality.

23 Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, (March, 1801)


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charters/constitution transcript.html x

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