Is This a Christian Nation? | An Introduction

49 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Carl T. Bogus

Carl T. Bogus

Roger Williams University School of Law

Date Written: June 28, 2021

Abstract

In his screenplay Charlie Wilson’s War, Aaron Sorkin creates an archetypical character named Larry Liddle, who tells Congressman Charlie Wilson: “This is a Christian nation, Charlie, founded on Christian values and beliefs. We welcome other faiths to worship as they wish, but when you can’t put a nativity scene in front of a firehouse in Nacogdoches Township, something’s gone terribly wrong.” This Essay attempts to answer that claim. What is the rationale of the claim? That must be discerned because neither Larry Liddle nor many of the real-life people he represents explain its underlying basis. After surveying other possibilities, Professor Bogus concludes that the essence of the claim is that America has always been, and will always properly be, a Christian nation because the American Founders were Christian. The first part of the Essay asks whether that is true by examining the religious beliefs of the six most prominent Founders. As it turns out, only one of the six can be confidently classified as someone who believed in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth while, under that definition, two were not Christians and a third was probably not a Christian, and the remaining two are in doubt. Whatever their personal religious beliefs may have been, however, the American Founders plainly did not intend to establish a Christian nation. They were dedicated to the principle of erecting a wall of separation between church and state. The second part of the Essay explores where that principle originated by providing a thumbnail description of Roger Williams and why and how he created the first government to separate church and state, and even the metaphor of a wall between the two, and how his ideas influenced the American Founders a century later.

Suggested Citation

Bogus, Carl T., Is This a Christian Nation? | An Introduction (June 28, 2021). Roger Williams University Law Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2021, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 211, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3875580

Carl T. Bogus (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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