Those who would argue that the U.S. government is designed to be utterly secular in nature like to point to Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 wherein he described a “wall of separation between church and state.” The Supreme Court subsequently embraced this language, of course, after the protections of the First Amendment were made applicable to the states by the Fourteen Amendment. I would suggest that Jefferson’s objective wasn’t to enable a wholly secular government, but rather to instill a radical religious freedom devoid of government interference. But times have changed, Constitutional law has changed, and the country’s make-up has changed. What’s interesting to me, however (and highly ironic), is that secularists looking to invoke Jefferson emphasize his letter to the Danbury Baptists but often ignore the founding document of the republic, also penned by Jefferson. Indeed, some even wish to claim that the Declaration is irrelevant, with no legal standing whatsoever. However, it’s centrality is obvious. Abraham Lincoln gave evidence to this centrality in his 1863 Gettysburg Address, which cites the Declaration:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
We are, of course, created equal because we “are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I’m no theonomist. I don’t believe in or want a “Christian nation.” But to ignore the religious roots and heritage of this republic and to seek to remove every vestige of the sacred from public discourse is both ignorant of history and simply wrong. As Toqueville (among others) has well noted, we are indeed a religious people, even if less so than we used to be. To seek to deny that is to deny our very essence.