Monday, June 15, 2009

Congressman Forbes: Another bogus claim that we're a "Christian Nation."

US Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) once again repeats the myth that America is a Christian nation. It's really quite sad that such a well educated man, one who obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, could let his religious desires so badly color his understanding of American history. (I've written about this before.)

The historical facts are so clear and unambiguous: The United States is a secular nation, with a Christian majority. And indeed, the very reason Rep. Forbes is able to attend the church of his choice, worship Jesus and God in the manner he believes is correct, and educate his own children as to his own beliefs, is because we are a secular nation, not a Christian nation.

The specific statement that Rep. Forbes objects to is, ironically, the famous Article 11 from the Treaty of Tripoli, which was written under George Washington's supervision, ratified by the United States Senate, and signed by President John Adams. These are some of the very men we call our "founding fathers," and here's what they wrote and voted on:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Got that? Do I have to repeat it? "... not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

Just once, I'd like to see one of these people who claim we're a Christian nation to clearly and unambiguously distinguish between these two ideas: First, that we're a secular nation, and second, that we're a nation with a Christian majority. Why is it so hard for Rep. Forbes to admit? He's a well educated, intelligent man, and surely must understand the difference.

All I can conclude is that Rep. Forbes is doing what politicians do: Saying what the voters want to hear, and to hell with accuracy. I know he comes from a conservative state, maybe it's just one of the things a politician has to do to get reelected. There must have been howls of outrage from his constituency when Obama repeated the words from the Treaty of Tripoli. Am I a cynic if I think that Rep. Forbes was deliberately ignoring the facts in order to play the crowd?

Here's his video in case you're interested. It's a bit long and repetative, but I want to present both sides.


  1. A nation that forgets God is headed for trouble. (Read Proverbs 14:34; 11:11,14; Psalm

  2. Anon - Actually, the facts prove otherwise. The well being of nations goes up as their people discard the ancient myths collectively called religion. Measure any way you like – murder, overall crime, wars, wealth, mental health – and atheism is good for nations, religion is bad. Those are the facts.

  3. So let's see... Out of the entire body of declarations, laws, treaties, policy statements, speeches, resolutions, periodicals, pamphlets, and letters that comprise the founding character of this nation, you manage to pull out ONE (1) passage out of an obscure minor treaty and use it to make the broad sweeping claim tht we are not a nation founded on Christian values and principles.

    The Treaty of Tripoli was signed in 1797 in a failed attempt to pacify the Barbary Coast pirates of Northern Africa who had forced an estimated 3 million Christians into slavery, and who were attacking American shipping and causing disruption to trade. The treaty was a pure and simple appeasement strategy and ransom payment that did NOT work. The treaty was broken by the Barbarys in 1801 with a declaration of war against the United States. The U.S. Navy and Marines attacked and defeated the pirates at Tripoli leading to a second treaty in 1805.

    Does this sound familiar? It should. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England attempted the same thing with Hitler and the treaty of Munch in 1938. While Neville declard "I believe it is peace for our time!", Hitler's Blitzkrieg rolled across Poland.

    The Tripoli Treaty was simply an appeasement strategy executed as an expedient to maintain trade. It was NOT a policy statement on the founding character of this nation. As a treaty, it was a failed instrument as all attempts to appease bullies do.

    Your argument is weak, very weak indeed, no matter how many times you care to repeat it.

  4. Desert Mariner, you are the one who doesn't know your history. The Treaty of Tripoli is just one of many, many documents that show, without a shadow of a doubt, that this country was founded with a secular government. Why do you pick on this one thing, and ignore the main question in my article? The key point is that we are a secular nation with a Christian majority. Why is it so hard for people like you to acknowledge this simple fact?

    Furthermore, your dismissal of the treaty as irrelevant is factually wrong. Read this analysis, by someone who has done a LOT more homework than you: Does the 1796-97 Treaty with Tripoli Matter to Church/State Separation? by Dr. Ed Buckner.

    And your claim that the Barbary pirates enslaved three million "Christians" is absurd on the face of it, unless you want us to believe that by 1797, every person in Africa was a Christian. In 1860 — sixty years later — the total slave population in the United States was four million and that the Barbary Coast pirates were responsible for 100% of all slave traffic. The war on the Barbary pirates was mostly because they were capturing American ships and holding the sailors for ransom. It had nothing to do with Christians or slaves.

    By the way you should look up Godwin's Law of internet arguments. You lost this argument automatically.

  5. Mr. James...For all of your rhetorical God-given ability to öut-intellect" most of us, in God's sight we are all equal...The fact is that many of our "founding fathers" were God-fearing (Biblical translatio": in awe of God) is a strength not a weakness...A man/woman's freedom to choose their belief has come from His hand NOT our own...Ordinary men and women inspired by the word of God have done extraordinary things for this country even to the point of dying for it and what they believe in so that others may have the right to - Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. and yes, even atheists...When it comes right down to it in the end, all of us will die some day and be held accountable to Him who gave us life to begin with...I will keep you, the nation, and the world in prayer, Mr. James and God Bless America.

  6. Made during the first session of the thirty third congress, the House Judiciary Committee concluded (1854): "Whereas, the people of these United States, from their earliest history to the present time, have been led by the hand of a kind Providence and are indebted for the countless blessings of the past and present, and dependent for continued prosperity in the future upon Almighty God; and whereas the great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it eminently becomes the representatives of a people so highly favored to acknowledge in the most public manner their reverence for God: therefore, Resolved, That the daily sessions of this body be opened with prayer and that the ministers of the Gospel in this city are hereby requested to attend and alternately perform this solemn duty."

    The Senate Judiciary Committe also concluded (1853):The whole view of the petitioners seems founded upon mistaken conceptions of the meaning of the Constitution. . . . If [the use of chaplains] had been a violation of the Constitution, why was not its character seen by the great and good men who were coeval with the government, who were in Congress and in the Presidency when this constitutional amendment was adopted? They, if any one did, understood the true purport of the amendment, and were bound, by their duty and their oath, to resist the introduction or continuance of chaplains, if the views of the petitioners were correct. But they did no such thing; and therefore we have the strongest reason to suppose the notion of the petitioner to be unfounded. . . . They had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people; they did not intend to prohibit a just expression of religious devotion by the legislators of the nation, even in their public character as legislators; they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy."


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