Americans Believe Constitution "Establishes Christian Nation"
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Thu Sep 13, 2007 at 02:56:41 PM EST
Readers of this site won't be surprised to learn that we have a long way to go in educating the public about the Constitution and the separation of church and state, which has helped preserve religious liberty in America for more than 200 years. Persuading people that the law doesn't allow them to codify their personal religious beliefs, traditions and habits into rules that everyone must endure is a difficult enough proposition without all the historical revisionists, freedom-fearing theocrats, and just plain liars gumming up the message with myths and mis-directions. But even knowing all that couldn't prepare me for the results of a depressing new First Amendment Center poll. Read on for the gory, exasperating details...
Only 19% of Americans could name religious freedom as one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (64% knew that free speech was protected there).

Only just over half - 56% (down from 72% in 2000) - believe "the freedom to worship as one chooses...applies to all religious groups" and was "never meant to apply to religious groups that most people would consider extreme or fringe." And still, 97% believe the "right to practice the religion of your choice" is either essential or important. (I suppose many took that to mean it's only important that they have that right, not that everybody does...)

43% believe that in December "(p)ublic schools should be allowed to put on Nativity re-enactments with Christian music." (up from 36% 2 years ago.)

A whopping 58% - oh. my. gosh - agree with this statement: Teachers and other public school officials should be allowed to lead prayers in public school.  (my emph)

65% have bought into revisionist claims and agree that "The nation's founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation." (worth noting that 46% strongly agree)

55% believe that the Constitution "establishes a Christian nation." And only 26% strongly disagree with that claim. (I wonder how many would be shocked to know that "establish" is precisely the verb the Constitution uses for what the government is not allowed to do with religion.)

50% agree that public school teachers should be able to use the Bible as a factual text in a history or social studies class.

The poll was made up of 30% self-described Democrats, 28% Republicans and 26% Independents.

Luckily, the actual Constitution protects many of the freedoms that many Americans would apparently deny, and it clearly denies much of the church-state entanglement that most Americans would allow, according to this poll. But those constitutional protections will only survive as long as Americans are willing to maintain them. Exposing the untruths and distortions of the religious right, while countering honest public mis-perceptions as well, has never been more important.

You can read the survey details here (pdf). The First Amendment Center press release is here. If, like me, reading this leaves you feeling like you could use some ice cream - a lot of ice cream - you may be interested in this voice-sensitive dispenser, which doles out serving sizes after assessing your level of misery, stress and sadness.

This survey underscores why, here at Talk to Action, we have highlighted the role of Christian historical revisionism as a profoundly animating feature of the religious right.  I wrote in my recent essay "History is Powerful" that we need not only to expose the false facts and bogus narrative of Christian nationalism, but also to create a narrative of our own that is widely accessible and understood, and broadly inclusive of many who have felt left out of the American mainstream, or who have been oppressed and marginalized. I think it's possible. I also think it is necessary.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Sep 13, 2007 at 09:25:37 PM EST
This affects absolutely EVERYTHING about who we are as a country, as well as what it is legitimate for the government to undertake in almost every sphere. There should be a HUGE lawsuit in the name of the entire electorate, including the religious, who fail to realize that revisionist history threatens more of their own freedoms than they realize, and failure to protect the religious freedoms of everyone threatens their own. An untwisted, unspun, non-cherrypicked interpretation - in other words, a straight reading - of the Constitution, clarified by the Declaration of Independence and other writings by the writers of those founding documents can do nothing but show that America was NEVER intended to be a religious country, but a country where ANY religion that harms or interferes with no one else's religion may be freely practiced. Our basic freedoms, our civil rights and even human rights are being warped, perverted, and even outright removed my religious demagogues and by political chameleons who are happy to pretend religiosity in order to steal ever more power away from the states and the electorate. It MUST be halted soon, before too many actually believe the lies and we really do lose all of our freedoms to a totalitarian theocracy where the superrich, self-proclaimed "Elite" who believe their "obvious superiority" - meaning their stolen wealth and power - entitles them to rule over their "inferiors": meaning all the rest of us! Ian

by Ian MacLeod on Thu Sep 13, 2007 at 09:44:03 PM EST
Very, very recently.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Sep 13, 2007 at 10:22:56 PM EST

by Ian MacLeod on Sun Sep 16, 2007 at 09:41:10 AM EST

It follows, given the amount of deliberate lies and misinformation visited upon us by the right-wing media noise machine. This orchestrated propaganda follows the principles laid down by Joseph Geobbels. dci
by lackawack on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 11:17:36 AM EST

We are mistaken if we believe that we have now or have ever had separation of church and state. We say we have this separation...we are supposed to have this separation...we are guaranteed this separation, but in reality, we do not have this separation. Our country actually supports the church by allowing  tax exempt status.  Our courts support the church by asking witnesses in court to swear to God that they are telling the truth. God is all over our money...his commandments are hanging in our public buildings. Prayers to Him begin many of our governmental proceedings and presidents of our country often end speeches with "and may God bless America".  The separation of church is something for which we should strive, not something we have attained are are only trying to protect.  

by ac slim on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 08:15:01 AM EST

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