Our Texas debates about the place of religion in the public school curriculum were featured in the cover story of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Some Christian Texans want the public schools to teach that the Christian Founders established a Christian nation and to rebut the aggressive, secular, liberal agenda that claims otherwise.
If the Founders really intended to create a Christian nation, they went about it in a strangely ineffective and incoherent way. First they wrote Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, stating “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That idea was radical for its time. It explicitly rejected the old model of the Christian states of Europe from which so many early American had fled. Later the Framers added the antiestablishment clause to the First Amendment, which begins “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The brilliant drafters of the Constitution could easily have chosen different language if they intended to create a Christian nation. Instead they chose to build a political and legal system that was not based on religion.
The Texas Christian activists want schoolchildren to learn that because the Founders were Christians, they founded a Christian nation. Instead the activists should emulate the Founders, many of whom were devout Christians who recognized that liberty is best served by keeping religion out of government.