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Update: I talked with an editor for the JTA, "The Global News Service of the Jewish People," who asked me, "Why is this news? It's from a year ago." But then, the story was largely ignored because McCain was in the back of the pack. Now, he deserves intense scrutiny. A Democratic activist commented, "Many people say it's a Christian Nation." But McCain wasn't making a statistical generalization. It was a constitutional pronouncement.

A little over a year ago, John McCain told an interviewer for BeliefNet:

"... [T]he Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

When confronted, McCain refused to retract the statement.

While this attack on the First Amendment's prohibition on the establishment of religion was (scantily) reported at the time (see below), it hasn't received much attention since.

In the same interview McCain also said he'd be reluctant to vote for anyone for President who didn't share his faith, particularly a Muslim.

Will you help spotlight McCain's dangerous remarks? More details below.

First, to see the video for yourself, see some of the clips on YouTube:

or watch it on the BeliefNet site. The New York Times ran a brief story a few days later, headlined, "McCain Casts Muslims as Less Fit to Lead."

Update: According to DrSteveB, When McCain was confronted about his bigotry by the conservative Jewish Anti-Defamation League, he wrote back, claiming he

"always avoided seeking political gain by aggravating racial or religious divisions among us, and I regret the insinuation that I would."

However, even upon reflection, and even after he was confronted about his theocratic constitutional lie, McCain chose to further aggravate religious divisions by not repudiating his (un)constitutional claim.
The ADL responded that they were

disappointed that you did not expressly retract your statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

With 46% of the population or so non-Christian, and 56% of the population supportive of separation of church and state (see below) I believe it is important for Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Native American, Wiccan, other religious, humanist, secular, and atheist bloggers and groups; and anyone, including Christians, who supports Constitutional liberties, to do much more to publicize McCain's threat to religious freedom.

Of course, factually, McCain is entirely wrong about the US Constitution,  as Georgia10 said in a diary last year,

... let's actually look at the text of the Constitution, shall we?

Article VI:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It's hard to believe McCain is ignorant of these fundamental constitutional precepts, and scary to learn that despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution, McCain attacks these fundamental constitutional liberties.

A few Daily Kos diarists wrote perspicaciously on this subject last year, including quaoar, who pointed out that the McCain campaign saw fit to issue a clarification about McCain's bigoted comments in response to a question regarding voting for a possible Muslim Presidential candidate from the same interview (in which he voices his personal discomfort with Article 6) by first saying that "I admire the Islam...":

But, no, I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith.

McCain's post-interview clarification said only that he would vote for a Muslim Presidential candidate if he or she was the person "best able to lead the country and defend our political values." But since McCain had already made it clear that no Muslim could meet this test in his own mind, this was cold comfort.

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's (ADC) Kareem Shora published a letter to the New York Times last October protesting McCain's bigotry and attack on democratic principles:

In making such a statement, Senator McCain has lent his respected voice to those who preach intolerance and prejudicial fear.

Shora added, the founders of the US "based the United States on democracy and pluralism, not on theocracy and religion."

But, tellingly, the McCain campaign did not even try to amend or explain McCain's statement that he repudiated Article VI and the First Amendment by declaring the United States Constitutionally Christian.

Teacherken pointed to James Carroll's ardent articulation of why he as a Catholic opposes McCain's attack on the Constitution's establishment clause:

John McCain, and the objects of his appeal, betray the nation - and the faith.

Since then, David Drissel warned in August of 2008 about McCain's theocratic intolerance.

But the only mainstream media source I am aware of which has covered this issue recently, is NPR's Fresh Air, which interviewed Steven Waldman from BeliefNet. As KumarP points out, in a diary about the Fresh Air interview, Palin also has Christian theocratic tendencies, declaring Christian Heritage week as Governor of Alaska.

Yet with 43% of the population either describing themselves as spiritual but not religious (33%) or neither spiritual or religious (10%), and another 3% or so Non-Christian, this information should be much more widely known, especially among these potential voters.

Overall, Harris reported in 2007, 56% of adults in the US support the separation of church and state (a figure that is frighteningly low, and which in itself highlights how dangerous it is for nationally prominent politicians to promote the bigotry of state sponsored religion), but this figure rises to 60% of political independents.

The American Jewish Committee criticized McCain last year, in a press release worth quoting in full:

AJC Dismayed by Senator McCain's Claim U.S. is "Christian Nation"

October 1, 2007 – New York – The American Jewish Committee is deeply troubled by Senator John McCain’s declaration, in an interview with Beliefnet, that "the United States is a Christian nation."

"We urge Senator McCain to withdraw his troubling remarks," said Jeffrey Sinensky, AJC’s general counsel. "Our individual rights cannot be secured if the government promotes one religion over others."

Sinensky noted that the Founding Fathers created a government free of religious ties because they knew all too well about the dangers of a church-state union. "It is no accident that the Constitution explicitly seeks to avoid favoring religion, much less a particular faith," Sinensky said.

In the Beliefnet interview McCain expressed reservations about a Muslim candidate running for U.S. president. When voting for a candidate, McCain said, "I prefer someone who I know has a solid grounding in my faith." since "the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation."

"Senator McCain should recognize that America is a democratic and pluralistic society where there is no religious test for public office, said Sinensky. "To argue that America is a Christian nation, or that persons of a particular faith should by reason of their faith not seek high office, puts the very character of our country at stake."

And Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, with whom I don't often agree, said McCain, "should go back to school and take Civics 1" and pointed out:

Several years after the [Constitution's] ratification, the Senate ratified a treaty with the Barbary regime of Tripoli which expressly proclaimed that "the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Dershowitz did not point out, but could have, that treaties become the law of the land, according to Article VI of the Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land;

Therefore the treaty referenced above affirms that it is a matter of US law, not just of opinion, that the US is not "in any sense" founded on Christianity.

However, Jewish groups and Jewish Newspapers seem to have been largely silent about McCain's intolerant comments ever since last October.

I haven't yet seen criticism from Native American, Buddhist, Wiccan, Hindu, and other groups, and the only largely Muslim group I've so far seen speak out on this issue is the letter from the ADC (which also has a large Arab Christian constituency) quoted above from last year.

Secular groups have been slightly more outspoken. For example, the Secular Coalition of America criticized McCain for denying that

Our Constitution establishes a secular government -- a unique and intentional construction.

If we can keep it. To whom will you help get the word out?

Originally posted to samdiener on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:24 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (48+ / 0-)

    I know this post is mostly a diary rescue from a year ago, with a soupcon of my own analyses, but I hope it's in a good cause.
    I'm grateful to the writers and organizations linked to above who protested last year, long before I became aware of this issue.

  •  The Enlightenment nevah happened (6+ / 0-)

    How did that revolutionary quote go?  Paraphrased it was something like:

    "I look forward to the day that the last king is hung from a tree with the entrails of the last priest".

    •  Any idea who said it or where it was from? (2+ / 0-)

      "Those that know, don't say, those that say, don't know"... Tao te ching... Then why am I posting a comment?

      by zenmasterjack on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:37:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Diderot (8+ / 0-)

        "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." - Denis Diderot

        I support Barack America and his trusted sidekick Joe Delaware! -Socratic

        by valadon on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:39:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

          •  Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French Enlightenment (3+ / 0-)

            I support Barack America and his trusted sidekick Joe Delaware! -Socratic

            by valadon on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:46:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I always get my Franco heros confused (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              valadon, Kestrel228, Othniel, tikifire

              Too many in the "D" part of the dictionary

              René Descartes  (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy,"

              •  he's the dualist (3+ / 0-)

                "I think, therefore I am"-"cogito ergo sum"-that caused man to think in terms of a division or Cartesian split between mind and body...

                That's not to deny his other contributions to philosophy, but, thankfully, we have moved beyond that particular dichotomy...

                I support Barack America and his trusted sidekick Joe Delaware! -Socratic

                by valadon on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:04:59 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  More on Diderot (4+ / 0-)

                Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was the brightest light of the French Enlightenment—a man of intelligence, passion and genius. He yearned for knowledge as he sought the answer to the ultimate enigma of all—our Universe. He wanted to know why we are here?... why is there a universe?...why is there anything at all?

                He studied history and developed a great fear that knowledge would continue to be destroyed by the Christians, who had a one-thousand year’s history of destroying libraries, burning books, ripping paintings, smashing marbles, and torturing anyone who voiced an unorthodox thought. To prevent it from happening in the future he produced the Encyclopedie, a history of what was known, and then distributed it world wide. He wrote almost a thousand of its articles, over a 20 year period. The rest were submitted by the scholars of the world including our own Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Rush. It took 35 volumes and a lot of commotion to get it all together.

                State and Church were immediately threatened. The Crown needed the Church to remind the people of that tidy biblical concept known as the Divine Right of Kings and the Church needed the Crown to keep its prodigious holdings (about half of Europe) tax free. If church authority was weakened, then so was the king’s. They knew that knowledge could bring doubt and vainly tried to ban the first two volumes of the Encyclopedie. It was too popular to be stifled, and in short order it became the most used resource in all libraries and homes that were fortunate enough to possess it. Even today encyclopedias are left open and accessible, not shelved, in our libraries due to their utility.

                He never found the answer of the whence and whither of humankind but he helped enlighten his world that was filled with ignorance, slaves and serviles—the children of illiteracy, superstition and piety. In sum, it was a very Christian world, consistent with Jehovah and Jesus, who never said a word in favor of education, investigation, science and art, or against the enslavement of humankind. Apparently they, and the Holy Ghost were ignorant of these subjects or perhaps they were just too busy looking after the sparrows to mention them. The Vatican would howl at Diderot and routinely place his works on its Index of Forbidden Books, but by then, the Pope of Rome was getting as much respect as the Wizard of Oz after his curtain was lifted. Folks were realizing papal threats were just hollow pretensions and they doubted that Jesus was really upset with Diderot just because the pope was.

                I support Barack America and his trusted sidekick Joe Delaware! -Socratic

                by valadon on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:07:24 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  One of my all-time favorite quotes. (4+ / 0-)

          Rise like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you. Ye are many - they are few.

          by cruz on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:48:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Its been updated (2+ / 0-)

          America will never be free until the last pundit is strangled with the entrails of the last pollster!

          by Flint on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 09:36:05 AM PST

          The reason people don't learn from the past, is because the past was a repetitious lie to begin with. Mike Hastie U.S. Army Medic Vietnam 1970-71

          by BOHICA on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:55:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I Oppose Violence (4+ / 0-)

      As an atheist-Jewish pacifist working for a Quaker organization, I'm opposed to religious violence.

      And  I'm anti-royalty enough to call my 4 year-old-child's piles of sand "sand housing cooperatives" in a quixotic attempt to forestall positive connotations with castles. But as a pacifist, I also oppose regicide on moral grounds. On practical grounds, I believe the last several decades especially has seen a thrilling rise in successful nonviolent insurrections against dictatorships.

      In any case, I hope this thread doesn't devolve into attacks on religion and responses by pro-religionists. Whether pro or anti-religion, I hope most of us can agree that the state establishment of religion, which McCain propounded, is something we need to oppose.

      •  pre-revolution era, the two parts, royalty/state (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        church were propping up each other.

        I remember the quote not as advocating violence, but as the Catch 22 of political reform, which was "sweeping away of hereditary powers", which allows a more evolutionary government based on skill and wit.

        •  French Revolution and Fair Taxation of the Rich (2+ / 0-)

          One can well argue that the French Revolution (never mind the rhetoric) was precipitated by the rich - the First and Second Estates, nobility and clergy - refusing to give up their tax privileges.

          Louis XVI was forced to call in the Estates since the system of state finance set up by Louis XIV, and which by-passed the constitutional authority of the Estates to raise taxes, had collapsed and left the country bankrupt.  The only way out was to convoke the Estates, which hadn't sat for over a century, and raise new taxes.  Since the First and Second Estates refused to accept taxes, the full burden of taxation was to devolve on the Third Estate.

          In the 17th Century, the Third Estate had been mainly rural; by the end of the 18th Century, the leading members of the Third Estate were educated burghers, artisans, traders and manufacturers - and they refused to have truck with shouldering the burden.  Hence the speech by the Abbé de Siéyès, and the Revolution.

          Ring a bell, anyone?

          γνωθι σεαυτόν

          by halef on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:04:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Best reference (13+ / 0-)

    Treaty of Tripoli.

    Constitution establishes treaties as the "supreme law of the land". Treaty of Tripoli (signed by Jefferson), article 11:

    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    The Treaty of Tripoli passed with only the third unanimous vote in Senate history.

    "What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!" - Genghis Khan and Conan the Barbarian

    by Jake Nelson on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:33:51 AM PDT

  •  SOP in bizarro bushworld. (4+ / 0-)

    Constitution doesn't say what you want, ignore the parts you don't like.
    bizarro bushworld must be eradicated from America.

    St. Ronnie was an asshole.

    by manwithnoname on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:49:16 AM PDT

  •  McCain is simply too ignorant to (4+ / 0-)

    credit.  Shame on all those people who did so and enabled him to become the Republican nominee.  One can only conclude that it was disdain for the nation which prompted their behavior.

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:52:29 AM PDT

  •  This is typical... (6+ / 0-)

    Of both Bushites and the fundamentalist Christians.  Bushites ignore the parts of the Constitution they don't like and fundies ignore the parts of the Bible they don't like.

    Back when I was a "Christian" I used to get into arguments at church with these Constitutionally ignorant fundies who would not be swayed from the idea that our country was founded as a Christian nation.  The whole idea is easily refuted if you study the actual founders and what they believed as well as the Constitution itself.  Unfortunately the people that believe these warped ideas are the same ones who never study their Bibles and believe anything their preachers tell them.

  •  Not an argument Obama can attack (7+ / 0-)

    This isn't an argument Obama can attack without driving up religious right voter turnout.  It's better to back slowly away from the ticking bomb, and defuse it after November 5th.

  •  What an asskisser. Sells our system for votes. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kestrel228, FishBiscuit, kgooding

    He's not the slightest bit pious at all, doesn't even believe that shit about our system being based on christ, but he lies about it, and sells us all down the river, for evangelical votes.  Dick.

    "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain's quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting." Fox New's John Moody

    by Inland on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:54:53 AM PDT

    •  C'mon, don't hold back, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      tell us what you really think! :)

      I agree that I don't think he knows what he believes. I thought this quote was a hoot:

      I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith.

      What is your faith, Mr. McCain? Kinda that vanilla Christendom style of Christianity that doesn't really influence your actions in any way at all?

      Didn't he try to proclaim himself a Baptist at some point in this campaign season, I think back in the primaries?

      Dr. Maddow is my hero!

      by kgooding on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:11:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reason No. 521 not to vote for McCain! n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Check out "American Creation" website (0+ / 0-)

    if you'd like to read some good discussion on this topic. It's not filled with Christian Nationalists.


    Dr. Maddow is my hero!

    by kgooding on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:13:35 AM PDT

  •  Careful with the Treaty of Tripoli reference (0+ / 0-)

    On closer inspection I think you will find the treaty was amended and the reference to "christian nation" was removed.

    So, while there are plenty of other references in Federalist papers and such to reinforce the idea of Separation of Church and State, this treaty unfortunately is not one of them.

    --Country before party--

    by chipoliwog on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:33:17 AM PDT

  •  The guy graduated third-last from his class (0+ / 0-)

    ..... Why should this surprise you....??????

    The McCain Palin ticket is most defined by its intellectual deficit.  

    Ironically, if you read the writings of the framers of the constitution, and you know even a little history you will realize that if there were any values at play at all they were not Christian values but Masonic values.  All you have to do is look at the back of an American one dollar bill.

    Further, even the political values came from across the water in the way of the philosophical underpinnings of the French Revolution....

    Hell.... I'm a Canadian and I know that.  

  •  I'm hopeful of Obama as representing... (0+ / 0-)

    ...the best instantiation of faith in leadership.

    He understands that he's taking the helm of a secular establishment, and I think he's got that wall erected good and stout and strong.

    But I can think of one practical thing that Obama's faith lends him as he leads a nation that has a grounding in the Bible: Perhaps he can lead America to the circumspection of Jules, in Pulp Fiction, as he started asking the hard and good questions about the nature of morality.

    Who knows where that might lead? Could it lead to questions on the nature divinity?

    Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

    by razajac on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:15:00 AM PDT

  •  The oft repeated lie..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ....becomes the 'new' truth.  Memes like 'Christian Nation' and 'Intellegent Design'.  When the general, under-involved public is bombarded with these 'new-speak' terms, year after year, and it is pumped into your home through the TV, after a time it becomes the new truth.

    The Republican of the last 20 years has devolved from high-minded ideals, intellectualism and principals of Barry Goldwater into the beer swilling, bowling alley of Joe the Plumber.

    Do you think that Joe knows that no where in the Constitution is the word 'God' used, or that there is absolutely no reference to diety?  I'm sure he can tell you, though, that we are a Christian Nation because it has been drummed into his head for the last 20 years by his TV.

    I fear the Christian Right, and know they have taken control of the Republican party.  I understand what they are capable of.

    "Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit"

    by Fuzzy5150 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:30:17 AM PDT

  •  well I was always convinced this was what he (0+ / 0-)

    believed but I never knew he had gone on record making such a clear declaration (repeated many times throughout the interview).

    Nice f you to all those who don't share his "superior" faith.

    "The fundamentals of my economy are strong" ...John McCain

    by polticoscott on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:56:22 AM PDT

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