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?
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.
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?