Founding Fathers weren't mostly deists

Updated 2/3/2011 10:39 PM

One or two recent letters about the Constitution and Christianity contain a few falsehoods. One stated many of the Founding Fathers were "Unitarians and deists and not Christians." Unitarians and deists in 1700s America were Christians. Of the several hundred who could be considered Founding Fathers, all of them were Christians. Only a handful were less orthodox Christians (including Jefferson and Franklin), who said things at times that were considered deist. Jefferson for certain believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ, that God shaped people's lives, and that America should be a Christian realm without elevating one sect of Christianity over another. It is a distortion to claim the Founding Fathers all were deists. Furthermore, it is not only the view of less orthodox Christians like Jefferson and Franklin that count. There were many signers of the Constitution, and several hundred important colonials who were Founding Fathers, all of whom were Christian.

Next, Article 11 of the Tripoli Treaty has nothing to do with the Christian beliefs of the Founding Fathers. The article was intended to assure the Muslims of Tripoli that American was not going to engage in a religious crusade against them. Authored by Joel Barlow, the diplomat working with Tripoli, an Arabic version was approved by John Adams, which omitted the words pertaining to Christianity when Mr. Barlow translated it into Arabic for the Arabs. It is not entirely certain if the English version containing Article 11 was the approved version, as the final Arabic version casts doubt. Additionally, in 1805 the treaty was renegotiated, and that version dropped Article 11 in English as well. America was founded by Christians who limited the role of national government in religion by forbidding establishment of a national church, so the sovereign states could decide how to nurture Christ's teachings.


Harold Knudsen

Arlington Heights