I love how Religious Right activists consider any historical reference to religion as evidence of our country's "Christian heritage" – even when those references point in the exact opposite direction.
Consider Sheriff Tim Gobble of Bradley County, Tenn. For some reason, Sheriff Gobble has decided to branch out from his job of arresting lawbreakers and dabble as an amateur historian. Unfortunately, he doesn't know what he's talking about.
"Anyone who questions whether the U.S. has a rich Christian heritage can take a quick look at the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, most all state constitutions, most all inaugural addresses, speeches of our founding fathers, national symbols, and even Washington D.C. architecture," Gobble writes in an essay on the Web site of the sheriff's office. "They all stand as testaments to our Christian heritage."
OK, let's take a look at them.
The Declaration of Independence, Gobble points out, says our people are "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights" and refers to "the Supreme Judge of the world" and a "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."
These are all Deistic references. There's not one word about Jesus Christ or the Christian faith.
The Constitution contains no references to God, Jesus Christ or Christianity. Don't get started on that pro forma use of "the year of out Lord" at the end. If the Founders had intended for this to be a Christian nation, they would have stated it upfront, not buried in an oblique sign off.
State constitutions? Sure, many of them had references to Christianity. Many also barred public office to non-Christians (or non-Protestants) and promoted religious exclusiveness and intolerance in other ways. That system was not working, so the Founders wrote a First Amendment that separates church and state.
Inaugural addresses and speeches by the Founding Fathers run the gamut. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, U.S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and other presidents wrote letters and essays or made public statements supporting religious freedom and church-state separation. There may have been presidents who felt differently, but that does not mean the Constitution agrees with them.
National symbols? You mean like that pyramid with the eyeball above it on the dollar bill or the eagle clutching olive branches and arrows? They're not Christian, either. In fact, some scholars believe the "all-seeing eye" is a Masonic nod to Egyptian paganism! Given that many of the Founders were into Masonry, I wouldn't be surprised.
There are many other errors and misconceptions in Gobble's essay. It's not worthwhile to debunk them all. (If you really want the full scoop, Chris Rodda's Liars for Jesus is the place to go.)
My advice to Sheriff Gobble is simple: Don't quit your day job of arresting bad guys. You'll never make it as a historian.