Will of the People
The United States of America was not founded on the principle that people in their roles as Christians, Jews, Muslims, or members of other religious sects determine the nation’s laws. Rather, it was founded on the principle that people in their roles as citizens, whatever their religious beliefs, determine the nation's laws.
The principle of separation of church and state does not mean that people cannot draw upon the scriptured religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam or the non-scriptured religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’ism, and others when determining the nation's laws. Rather, it means that no individual declaration of God’s law or will, Biblical, Sharia, or otherwise, takes precedence over the law or will of the people.
Fundamentalist Christians, i.e., the Christian Right, argue that the United States is a Christian nation because they claim the nation's laws are based, or should be based, on Christian values. The claim shows ignorance of the fact that those values existed long before the advent of Christianity, for example, in Hinduism and Judaism. Christianity merely packaged them differently with perhaps greater emphasis on the love rather than the wrath of God.
The Christian Right should know that although Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, referred to “the creator” because he was a deist. But he was not a Christian. Moreover, Jefferson and the other founding fathers did not make any reference to the establishment of an individual declaration of God’s will, i.e., the establishment of a collective or state religion. Rather, they recognized that religion is an individual rather than a collective or statewide experience and established a guarantee of religious freedom for every individual in the Bill of Rights.
The Christian Right should also know that the phrases, “in God we trust” and “under God,” were not creations of the founding fathers. The former did not appear on U. S. Currency until the 19th Century, and the latter was inserted into the pledge of allegiance only fifty years ago. Moreover, the phrases do not refer to the God of Christianity or any other religion. Neither do they refer to the God questioned by agnostics or denied by atheists. Rather, they refer to God as the universal or ultimate truth or wisdom that people seek, trust in, are guided by, and operate under in the determination of the nation's laws.
Finally, the Christian Right should know that in the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, a Christian and a Republican conservative, referred to government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not of Christians, by Christians, and for Christians. And although Lincoln referred to God often, he made it clear that the will of the people determines the nation's laws, not the will of Christians or members of any other religious sect.
Anyone who cannot accept the principle of law based on the will of the people rather than some individual declaration of God’s will is simply in the wrong country. Furthermore, anyone who attempts by means of force and violence to replace the principle with an individual declaration of God’s will is guilty of sedition and subject to expulsion or any other disposition deemed appropriate by the will of the people. So beware, especially those among you who have contempt for the will of the people when it is contrary to Biblical or Sharia law.
Copyright © November 2007 Frank Zahn. Published in ViewsHound, June 11, 2011 under the title “American Laws are Decided by People, Not by Religion” - Gold Prize Winner June 12, 2011; The Writings of a Curious Mind: A Collection of Essays, Memoirs, and Short Stories, Vancouver Books (Kindle Edition) 2017.