Law professor: Christian revisionists do injustice to American founders

tags: Founding Fathers, religion



Contemporary Americans who cite isolated quotes by the nation’s founders to buttress arguments in favor of a Christian nation or a secular society without religious influences misinterpret history and do injustice to those who framed the U.S. Constitution, says law professor and author Michael Meyerson.

“The cherry-pickers have forced people into camps” and created a false division the founders never intended, said Meyerson, author of Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America.

Meyerson, professor of law at the University of Baltimore, delivered the Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, April 1-2. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty sponsors the annual lecture series.

While some early American patriots, such as Patrick Henry, advocated state support for religion, the key founders — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — held a sophisticated view that saw the value of religious commitment by citizens but the danger of sectarian division that would emerge from a wedding of church and state, he noted.

The founders sought to strike equilibrium on the issue and compromised to produce a solution that avoided partisanship.
“They understood the complexity of this issue better than we do,” Meyerson said. “They understood the solution had to be nuanced and had to be complicated — not beyond understanding, but not a simple ‘never or always.’ And that’s what they worked on — that compromise.”


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