America Not a Christian Nation? Wrong, Mr. President:

A Response to Barack Obama’s Denial of Our Christian Heritage


Mike Griffith

April 16, 2009


Presuming to speak for all Americans, during his recent visit to Turkey, President Obama stated that we Americans do not consider America to be a Christian nation, but just a nation of citizens.  Our founding fathers and the great leaders who followed them would be disappointed and puzzled by this claim, to say the least.


John Adams, a key figure in the American Revolution and our second President, said that the principles upon which we achieved independence were "the general principles of Christianity":


The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. . . .  I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and the attributes of God.  (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813)


In his first inaugural address, President Adams said,


I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect. (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1797)


John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by George Washington, called America a Christian nation:


Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers. And it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. (Letter to Jedidiah Morse, February 28, 1797)


Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and who later served in the administrations of George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison, had this to say on the matter:


Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament. (Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1798, p. 88)


President John Quincy Adams, our sixth President and son of President John Adams, acknowledged the Christian foundation of America’s beginnings in a speech he delivered on July 4, 1837:


Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birth-day of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before? (An Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport [Massachusetts], at Their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837, by John Quincy Adams. Newburyport: Charles Whipple, printed by Morse and Brewster, 1837, pp. 5-6)


In 1854 the House Judiciary Committee said the following in a report on the meaning of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state:


Had the people during the Revolution had a suspicion of any attempt to wage war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect. Any attempt to level and discard all religion would have been received with universal indignation. . . .  


But we beg leave to rescue ourselves from the imputation of asserting that religion is not needed to the safety of civil society. It must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment—without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our sins.


In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; that in its general principles is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions. That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. (Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress, Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854; John Minor, The Bible in the Public Schools, Robert Clarke & Co., 1870, pp. 200-201)


In 1892, the Supreme Court issued an exhaustive--and unanimous—decision, Holy Trinity v. U.S., which declared America to be a Christian nation:


These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. (U.S. Supreme Court, Holy Trinity v. U.S., 1892)


President Woodrow Wilson understood the truth on this matter:


America was born a Christian nation.  America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture. (In Jan Nordholt, Woodrow Wilson: A Life of World Peace, University of California Press, 1991, p. 47)


Calvin Coolidge affirmed America’s Christian character in his inaugural address:


Here stands our country, an example of tranquility at home, a patron of tranquility abroad. Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to the intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God. (Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925)


President Harry Truman certainly had a different view of America than President Obama has:


This is a Christian Nation. More than a half century ago that declaration was written into the decrees of the highest court in this land. It is not without significance that the valiant pioneers who left Europe to establish settlements here, at the very beginning of their colonial enterprises, declared their faith in the Christian religion and made ample provision for its practice and for its support. The story of the Christian missionaries who in earliest days endured perils, hardship--even death itself in carrying the message of Jesus Christ to untutored savages is one that still moves the hearts of men.


As a Christian Nation our earnest desire is to work with men of good will everywhere to banish war and the causes of war from the world whose Creator desired that men of every race and in every clime should live together in peace, good will and mutual trust. Freedom of conscience, ordained by the Fathers of our Constitution to all who live under the flag of the United States, has been a bulwark  (Letter to Pope Pius XII, August 6, 1947)


In his famous Farewell Address to the Nation, George Washington warned that religion and morality were crucial for our political prosperity:


Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. (Farewell Address, September 17, 1796)


President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke about the important role of faith in God in the American tradition:


The Founding Fathers expressed in words for all to read the ideal of Government based upon the dignity of the individual. That ideal previously had existed only in the hearts and minds of men. They produced the timeless documents upon which the Nation is rounded and has grown great. They, recognizing God as the author of individual rights, declared that the purpose of Government is to secure those rights.


To you and to me this ideal of Government is a self-evident truth. But in many lands the State claims to be the author of human rights. The tragedy of that claim runs through all history and, indeed, dominates our own times. If the State gives rights, it can--and inevitably will--take away those rights.


Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first--the most basic--expression of Americanism. Thus the Founding Fathers saw it, and thus, with God's help, it will continue to be. (Remarks Recorded for the Back-to-God Program of the American Legion, February 20, 1955,


And on and on and on and on we could go.  I could continue for several pages citing statements like the above from our founding fathers and from American leaders who followed them. 


President Obama may not believe America is a Christian nation, but early American leaders and their successors had a much different view.  Revisionist historians are fond of quoting a carefully selected handful of early statements, such as the Treaty of Tripoli, to try to prove otherwise, but the record is clear that America was founded as a Christian nation.  It should be noted that polls show that most Americans view America as a Christian nation as well.  So, I would say to Barack Obama, "Mr. President, you're wrong--and next time, please speak for yourself."




Michael T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History, a Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Arts, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees. He also holds an Advanced Certificate in Civil War Studies and a Certificate in Civil War Studies. He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas.  He has completed advanced Hebrew programs at the University of Haifa in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England.  He has written five books on Mormonism and ancient history and one book on the JFK assassination.


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