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A Christian Land Governed by Christian Principles

 “A Christian Land Governed by Christian Principles…” 
Chief Justice Earl Warren [1] 

I read with interest a July 4, 2011, article by Kenneth Davis, author of Don’t Know Much About History.  Ironically my primary concern is the historical inaccuracy of his statement:  “Why U.S. is not a Christian Nation…”  Read his article here:

Yes Mr. Davis America’s real history makes clear that the civil government was to be separate from the government of the church, however America’s law order was unquestionably founded in the Old and New Testaments.  While Individuals were not compelled by the force of government to participate in any state sanctioned church, there is no man above the law and the law order was not founded in the Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, etc., traditions but upon the Bible.

It is impossible to reconcile Davis’ statement with the fact that as a matter of law, fact, and history, the U.S. supreme Court found America to be a “Christian Nation” in at least four separate cases between 1844 and 1931, just prior to the current age of “enlightened” legal activism or what Harvard Law School historian Raoul Berger called, “Government by Judiciary?”: Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U.S. 126132 (1844),Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890), Church of the Holy Trinty v. United Staes 143 U.S. 457 (1892), U.S. v. MacIntosh 283 U.S. 605 (1931).  The most important opinion of the four decisions is the long-delayed and frequently reconsidered Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States[2] authored in a unanimous opinion (9-0) by Associate Justice David J. Brewer, who was incidentally born of missionary parents in China.

Brewer and the supreme Court, including the eight Justices, who joined him in the unanimous opinion of 1892 actually looked back 400 years to 1492 and the first official document or Organic Utterance, a document of civil government (in other words, an official public document, not just a historic letter) to look at state, local and national “organic utterances” for 400 years from 1492 to 1892 and they held essentially,

“From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation… that this is a Christian nation… We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth.”   

It is true that unique American notions of the free exercise of religion and religious liberty were only possible because of the Constitutional emphasis on limited government, free enterprise, and self-government to ensure liberty and justice for all.  Civil government could not compel faith, worship, communion, nor determine approved forms of baptism.  Signers of the Declaration of Independence each held that “it was a self evident truth” that there was “a Creator”, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that our system of laws and civil government was based upon the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” “Law” means fixed in every language, and changing law is an oxymoron.  We were a nation of laws but sadly, soon to be a nation of men, having lost liberty and justice.

In support of these organic utterances made from the highest Court in the land, is the overflowing fountain of thousands of political sermons delivered during the founding era, (reproduced by the Liberty Fund secular publishing company in Indiana, The Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, edited by Ellis Sandos, covering an era of 1730 to 1805).  While it may be politically correct today to proclaim otherwise, it is impossible to support the fundamental inaccuracy of Mr. Davis’ article as it denies what was so often officially recognized from both civil and church institutions.

America’s founders were those who “with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence…mutually pledged…our fortunes and our sacred honor” signed The Declaration of Independence, our founding Charter, and recognized our Creator four times as the source of rights, liberty, form of government, and foundation of our society, as a “self-evident truth.”    The surprising victory at Yorktown against the most powerful Army and Navy in the world, recognized as “miraculous” by many British officers, secured our independence and liberty.  It provided a basis for a nation with limited powers of civil government, and separated the government of the church from the civil government.

This history is no longer taught in our institutions of higher learning and most lawyers, pastors, educators and students know less about why America’s national motto is “In God We Trust” than ordinary citizens do.  In the back of the United States: A Christian Nation by Justice Brewer, there is a complete copy of the Church of the Holy Trinity Church vs. United States case.  Over nearly two years of consideration and deliberation, the Court ended up citing 66 precedents.  In the 1962 supreme Court case Engle v. Vitale,[3] the Court cited not a single precedent for its revolutionary notion that somehow prayer in a “Christian Nation” whose national motto is “In God We Trust” is inappropriate in a government school.

Justice Brewer received so many invitations to speak around the country after the publication of this significant opinion, United States: A Christian Nation, that his friends, aware of the impossibility of his responding to such an outpouring of requests suggested he deliver a series of lectures, which could be made available in booklet form to those interested in this historic 1892 decision.  It has been reprinted by American Vision over the last 10 years:

Available on under the Archives section of the American History Restoration Project is a memorandum summarizing the four specific supreme Court cases with references and a brief exposition of each one.  The historical, legal, and factual meaning of America’s official status as a “Christian Nation,” is well laid out by Benjamin F. Morris in his seminal work The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States.  That excellent sourcebook also has been reprinted by American Vision.  It was originally published in 1864 and remained in print for many decades thereafter.

The Honorable Daniel J. Boorstin, who was Librarian of the Library of Congress from 1975 to 1987, who authored a book entitled The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961).  He observed something that far few understand:

“Americans live in a world of pseudo-facts, which is created for them by their own media.”

Similar points were made by the distinguished, Pulitzer winning historian David McCullough, particularly when he gave his Smithsonian/Library of Congress National Book Fair keynote speech on October 12, 2002, in which he was introduced by the then Librarian of Congress James Billington.  McCullough declared that:

“We are raising a generation of ‘historical illiterates.’  This ignorance is ‘dangerous,’ particularly to American liberty…  We face a foe today who believes in enforced ignorance —- we don’t.”

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky wrestled with suppression of America’s history because of its rich and abundant references to God, Divine Providence, the Creator.  Kentucky acted to correct this suppression in 1992.  Tennessee passed the same law in 1993. The bill can be viewed at

Even Time Magazine on February 15, 1954, in “Breakfast in Washington” reported on the Presidential Prayer Breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel.  The senior leaders of the Executive, Congressional and Judiciary branches were all present.  The last speaker was Chief Justice Earl Warren, “I believe no one can read the history of our country,” he said, “without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses…Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia…or to the Charter of New England…or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay…or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut…the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles

Serious “undemocratic changes” to America’s foundation have occurred without “the consent of the governed.”  Our true American origin is clear and upheld in our institutions and serves as the source our great liberties which patriots celebrate every July 4th.  Let us never forget the origin of our freedoms, lest we lose them.  We are “One Nation Under God” and not a nation of men.

Semper Fidelis,
Colonel Ronald D. Ray
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

[1] Time Magazine, Breakfast in Washington, February 15, 1954
[2] David J. Brewer, The United States: A Christian Nation, American Vision, 1996, pp.75-89.