Welcome to the CSA. No, not the Confederate States of America, which lost its bid to destroy America in 1865. The new CSA is the Christian States of America, promoted by those who believe that America was founded as a Christian nation.

The idea to make America submit to one version of Christianity is not new. The Puritans came here to establish their version of the authoritarian, state-run Church of England, but soon found not everyone would submit. Roger Williams was an outspoken dissenter who felt the Puritans “freedom for me but not for thee” view of religious freedom was absurd. Williams eventually left and founded Rhode Island and the Baptist religion.

Virginia tried to force everyone to submit to the state-run Anglican church, but they too found not everyone would submit. The Virginia Baptists, who were discriminated against by the state-controlled Anglican Church, hired Thomas Jefferson to defend them. Jefferson subsequently wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a document that prevents the state from interfering with one’s religious beliefs. Jefferson then included the separation of church and state clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution, America’s founding document.

The only mention of religion in the Constitution is exclusionary. So much for claiming America was founded as a Christian nation

The modern push for America as a Christian nation began in the 1950s as a reaction to the rise of the Soviet Union and “godless” communism. Billy Graham, the most well-known spokesman for a Christian America, was instrumental in getting “In God, We Trust” on our paper money, getting the instantly divisive line “under God” inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance, and creating the National Prayer Breakfast.

Christian Nationalists want Christian icons kept or placed on public property, such as a statue of Jesus on federal land in the Flathead National Forest in Whitefish, Montana, the Bladensburg Cross on a government-owned intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland, and Pensacola’s Bayview Park cross on city property in Pensacola, Florida.

Many Confederate statues honoring the idea that Black people are an inferior race were removed because they don’t represent American values. Christian icons on public property need to be removed for the same reason. These icons honor the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman, and women don’t have the right to decide when to have a family.

These icons also represent the idea that we should have Christian prayer in public schools, and that government should pay for Christian schools, but not other religious schools. In poll after poll, a majority of Americans do not support those ideas. Most people recognize keeping state and church separate is what gives everyone religious freedom.

Some would go so far as to remove any statue that honors one who held slaves, Washington and Jefferson being prime examples. I do not subscribe to this view, mainly because of the immense contributions both men made to founding the country and writing documents that, if followed, would make America what it claims to be.

One item I would remove is the deplorable national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and wealthy slaveholder. When Key wrote “land of the free and home of the brave,” Black slaves were surrendering to British troops in droves because they knew they would have more freedom under the Union Jack than under Old Glory.

Key’s concept of freedom is what we would call white supremacy today. Key viewed Black people as “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” As attorney general for Washington, D.C., Key sought the death penalty for a man who merely possessed abolitionist literature. Is this the man we want to honor? I think not.

All countries erect statues of people that represent what the nation stands for. America’s statues need to reflect our values as well. For freedom of speech, I propose a statue of Lenny Bruce, and to honor the separation of church and state, I suggest we erect a statue of Robert G. Ingersoll. A statue of Margaret Sanger would support a woman’s right to decide when to have a family, and a statue of Frederick Douglass would represent both equality and justice.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.