Friday, September 23, 2005

The Treaty of Tripoli: America not founded as a Christian nation?

Well, it happened again. Some know-nothing Christian-basher showed up on an online forum I frequent and started spouting off about how American wasn't founded on Christian principles by Christians:
Beware of the Dobson types who claim we were founded as a Christian nation - look up the Treaty of Tripoli.

I have not only looked it up, but I have read about its history. That brings me to the conclusion that people who use it as some sort of winning argument against Christians like myself are ignorant. Here are three reasons why the argument regarding the Treaty of Tripoli is invalid:

1) The Treaty of Tripoli states, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." This is absolutely correct! The government of the U.S. is religiously neutral, but that does not have any bearing on whether or not the nation was founded on Christianity. Remember, the government is not the nation. The nation existed well before the government did. (Would you believe someone on TheologyWeb.com once tried to misquote the Treaty as, "the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion?")

2) The amendment that contains phrase in question from the Treaty did not appear in its non-English translation. Why would that segment not appear in that translation if it was so important.

3) Finally, the Treaty of Tripoli was renegotiated a few years later and the amendment was completely dropped from it. Again, if it was so important, why wasn't it included in the renegotiated treaty?

Here's an added bonus:

"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." (HOLY TRINITY CHURCH v. U.S., 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226, February 29, 1892)

So on the one hand, we have a questionable phrase from a defunct treaty. On the other, we have a Supreme Court ruling. Which one do you think holds more weight?

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