Carroll County Times Opinion

Mitch Edelman: Don’t believe the hype: The U.S. has never been a Christian nation | COMMENTARY

When the United States was in its infancy, the men who wrote the Constitution had to put enough political sausage into it to gain support from all 13 former colonies, each of which thought itself a new country. To appease Southern states, black slaves were included in the census, but to placate Northern free states, those slaves were counted as fractions of people.

To gain buy-in from the less populous states, the Founding Founders invented the electoral college, a poison pill for direct democracy that to this very day tortures our nation.


One thing the Founders agreed on: The United States of America would never establish a state religion. People would always be free to choose their preferred places of worship or none at all.


Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet “Common Sense” lit the flame for independence from England, wrote, “All national institutions of churches … appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and maximize power and profit.”

Paine had no use for state religions. The Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” You may recall the Marine Corp Hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli …” In 1796, the United States and Tripoli entered into treaty. President John Adams signed it, adding “the United States is not, in any sense, a Christian Nation.”

History records that the Senate unanimously approved that treaty.

One of the bedrock principles of American democracy is separation of church and state. This nation was never – and never intended to be – a theocracy, Christian or otherwise.

QAnon follower and conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Republican Party reject those truths. Greene, a U.S. representative from Georgia, declared herself a “Christian Nationalist” last week. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert declared herself “tired of the separation of church and state junk.” She went on to say, “the church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church.”

If those two were ever aware of what Christian Nationalists are, they might not be so eager to align with them.

Nationalism is not even close to patriotism. Patriotism is loyalty to one’s country. Webster’s Dictionary defines nationalism as “the doctrine of declaring the interests of one’s country as separate from the common interests of all nations.”

If you want an example of nationalism at work, look at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; look at Hitler’s persecution of Jews (and millions of non-Aryans). That is what the Republican Party’s radical right raises its arm in salute to. That is what leads the Conservative Political Action Conference to invite white supremacist Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban to speak before the assembled “white-wing” extremists who haunt the shrinking numbers of remaining patriots in the Republican Party.


In 1961, three years before he was the Republican nominee for president, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater said, “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism."

Goldwater would be drummed out of today’s Republican Party for speaking that truth, if his tolerance of gender minorities didn’t do it first.

Again, America was never a Christian nation. To their credit, true conservatives oppose the idea of Christian Nationalism; patriotic conservatives reject Christian Nationalism’s bigotry and those who embrace it. Today’s Republican Party refuses to separate itself from those within who deny the truth and reject American patriotism. Until such time as the GOP returns to true American values, it remains unfit to govern. Remember that when you vote in November, and remember to vote in November!

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at