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  Is The U.S. A Christian Nation? NoOctober 23, 2007 07:48 Browse the Internet and you will find hundreds of sites and essays debating whether the U.S. is a Christian nation. Many claim that the mixture of religion and politics is volatile, and no aspect of their relationship causes more furor than this issue. Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and secularists have all joined this heated debate.

The most recent cause of contention is John McCain’s statement in an interview on Beliefnet. Responding to a survey reporting that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, McCain stated that “this nation was founded primarily in Christian principles” and that he preferred “someone who has a grounding in my faith” as president. His remarks evoked a firestorm of protest from various groups. A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations complained that McCain’s comment violated “the traditions of American ... religious pluralism and inclusion.” The executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council accused McCain of being a “religious right mouthpiece.”

Those — primarily evangelicals — who argue that the U.S. is a Christian nation emphasize the Christian convictions of the founders, most notably Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon and John Jay. They point to the acknowledgement of God and the Christian language used in the constitutions of the first 13 states. Advocates of this position frequently quote references made by Supreme Court justices to America as a Christian nation and the 1892 Supreme Court decision (Holy Trinity v. United States) that declared that the U.S. is “a Christian nation.” In addition, they contend that both the widespread use of the religiously-informed McGuffey Readers in public schools in the antebellum years and public pronouncements of numerous presidents affirming America’s religious heritage and values testify to the nation’s Christian commitment. They argue further that adding the words “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954, adopting “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956 and printing these words on our money demonstrate that the U.S. is a Christian nation.

Opponents, led by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, counter that America has never officially been a Christian nation. They stress that many of the founders, especially Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and John Adams, were not orthodox Christians. The Constitution, they argue, is a completely secular document that does not mention God or Christianity. Moreover, efforts to amend it to acknowledge Christ’s political authority have repeatedly failed. In addition, the Constitution prohibited the establishment of a national church, thereby separating church and state. The Treaty with Tripoli, unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797, they point out, states that the “government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ...” Finally, they accentuate various Supreme Court rulings since 1947, all of which argue that the Constitution established a “wall of separation” between church and state and limits the place of religion in public life.

The historical evidence supports the conclusion that the U.S. was not founded as a Christian nation or state, but its culture and principles of government were greatly influenced by Christianity. Multiple ideological streams — Enlightenment, English Whig and Christian — converged in the 1770s and 1780s to form the new U.S. Moreover, the Christian heritage had previously absorbed many ideas from the non-Christian classical world. Because our nation’s roots are so diverse and the Constitution does not explicitly establish Christianity as the national religion, it is inaccurate to say that the U.S. is officially a Christian country.

  State, Anti-Abortion Groups Battle Over 'Choose Life' PlatesOctober 16, 2007 20:42 Let them buy bumper stickers...

Anti-abortion advocates and state attorneys argued before a federal appeals court Monday over Arizona's rejection of a specialty license plate that says "Choose Life."

A federal appeals court in San Francisco heard arguments in the case stemming from the rejected application in 2003. Officials said the specialty plate constituted "political speech." Supporters say the plates are meant to promote adoptions.

Arizona has a number of specialty license plates addressing everything from pets and veterans to universities and breast cancer.

Seventeen other states, including Florida, have similar plates, said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which is among the groups suing the state over the matter.

Anti-abortion and pro-adoption groups, including CAP and the Alliance Defense Fund, argue the state is discriminating against them and their point of view. A federal court in Phoenix sided with the state in 2005, but CAP and ADF appealed. A decision is pending.