16 November 2005

U.S. history fact of the day

Back in the 1790s, it was apparently taken for granted that the U.S. government was a secular institution. I didn't know this. But it's declared, in the clearest possible language, in a treaty read aloud on the floor of the Senate and signed by President John Adams.


mdj said...

It's sort of a little more complicated than that, more akin to "we will not start wars with religious justifications." To say that it was "taken for granted" that the US was secular is a bit of a stretch to imply from the treaty.

jto said...

As far as the treaty language is concerned, I disagree. It says, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion". And it doesn't say it casually, or back away from it afterwards. Rather it combines that statement with two others to make a logical point.

But as to whether one should draw conclusions from the fact that this was read aloud in the Senate and passed unanimously, that's arguable I guess.

I just know that regardless of context, a statement like that could hardly be uttered in the Senate today without drawing considerable fire, let alone passed with unanimous approval. Obviously something has changed.