It gives me no end of grief to hear people say that my country (the United States) was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Conservative commentators and pundits say this all the time. If they happen to write in a conservative publication, you’ll find it there as well. But I never hear them defend this proposition. Where does it come from?
Clearly not the Constitution. There’s not a single mention of god anywhere there. The Declaration of Independence uses the word “creator” once, in the preamble, and does not specify which creator (Ganesha?).
Many scholars believe that the framers were heavily influenced by the writings of John Locke, specifically, The Two Treatises of Government. Note that Locke never proposed an establishment of a republic, but that government (in this case, kings) received their authority to govern from the people. The above link summarize very well how the ideas of Lock were incorporated into our Constitution. The same ideas were also used in the composition of the Declaration of Independence.
Was Locke the only influence of the founders/framers? I don’t know but clearly many of his ideas were adopted in both documents.
So where does the idea of Judeo-Christian principles come from? I’ve been doinf searches on this exact question. The main arguments seem to be these:
1. In the Declaration of Independence, they use “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator…”, which of course is interpreted as being god, the Judeo-Christian god. But if they meant god in that sense, why did they use creator?
2. Another argument is the we have “In God We Trust” on our money and in the Pledge of Allegiance, “under God”. But “In God We Trust” didn’t appear on our money until 1957 from an act of Congress passed in 1956. As for the Pledge? Under god was added in 1954. Again by legislation passed by Congress.
3. What about all of the biblical inscriptions on the monuments in Washington D.C? Also, the Supreme Court have the Ten Commandments inscribed in four places in the building. A few examples here. The Lincoln Memorial did not begin construction until 1914 and opened in 1922. Jefferson? The memorial was designed in 1925. The Washington Monument was built in 1888. None of these examples prove a Judeo-Christian founding. As for the Supreme Court, the friezes were architectural, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit that building you’ll also find friezes of Greek and Roman influence.
4. Our laws are based on the English Common Law, and they were Christians! But those laws deal mainly with criminal and civil law and how those laws separately, should be adjudicated.
The framers were intent on no single relgion being the basis of our government. That’s why we have the Establishment Clause in the first amendment. Here’s the first paragraph of the link I just provided.
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.
Legislators, many of whom are lawyers, should know this but time and again it seems that they want to craft laws that prefer Judeo-Christian values.
What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if Congress were to pass a law endorsing Sharia? Do you think there might be an outcry? Well, I do and I keep asking myself why more people do not object to Congress, or their state legislatures, trying to pass laws that favor the christian religion.
You may personally be influenced by Judeo-Christian principles or values, and that’s fine, but this country was not. Please stop attempting to force your values on the remainder of the country.