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The Myth of Christian America : What You Need to Know About the Separation of Church and State [Paperback]

By Mark Weldon Whitten (Author)
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Item Number 118409  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   122
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.95" Width: 6.01" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 1999
Publisher   Smyth & Helwys Publishing
ISBN  1573122874  
EAN  9781573122870  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Whitten outlines what Christians need to know about proper relations between religion, Christian or otherwise, and government. Far from being a "myth" or a "lie," church-state separation is a constitutional principle and philosophy enshrined within the First Amendment. Written in an accessible, popular style, The Myth of Christian America provides sound scholarship in defense of the exposition of constitutional church-state separation. Whitten argues against the popular but ill-founded thesis that America was constitutionally and institutionally founded to be a "Christian nation." He argues for a robust yet properly advanced constitutional separation of church and state and for full religious liberty for all.

Publishers Description
Written in an accessible, popular style, Whitten provides sound scholarship in defense of the exposition of constitutional church-state separation.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Very balanced  Dec 14, 2005
This book is very balanced, and is not hostile to religion. It argues very fairly for the separation of church and state in the U.S., and explains why it is important, and all the Supreme Court cases over the years that have established this principle very clearly in the U.S. I highly recommend this well-researched, and balanced book.
Great Book for Study and Group Discussion  Jun 27, 2005
The book includes eight appendices with excerpts of important historical documents, making it easy to read original source material and form one's own judgments concerning the intent of the Founding Fathers. The authors proceed through nine short chapters (each followed by excellent discussion questions) to demonstrate that regardless of what the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers may have been as individuals, they did not desire that the Constituion create a Christian Nation. Indeed, they demonstrate quite persuasively that the notion that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation is a myth. More and more conservative Christians today seem to argue that separation of church and state is not found in, or founded upon the Constitution. I wish I could get them all to read this easy to read book, because as a conservative Christian myself, it worries me that there are so many uniformed people ready to believe leaders who tell them that separation of church and state is a myth.
Clarify a lie  Apr 25, 2005
While I recommend this book, it is not without reservation.

Mr. Whitten states his objective is to "communicate the constitutional philosophy and principle of church-state separation to pastors, laypersons, and anyone who is not conversant with the discipline of church-state studies." Mr. Whitten wants his fellow Christians to embrace the legacy of Baptists at our founding and build their ideology on America's ideals rather than falling for the propaganda spewing forth from today's religious right hungry for political power.

While I admire the accuracy of Mr. Whitten's claims, I'll grade his effort an incomplete regarding his providing his target audience sufficient evidence that our founders were intent on creating a secular government whose leaders had the freedom to embrace what they termed "freedom of conscience".

I admit I'm not part of Whitten's target audience because I'm quite conversant on the relationship between church and state at the time of our founding and already knew that the creation of our government was based on the objective to eradicate influence by religion on civic matters to ensure America was truly free. Though those principles weren't perfectly executed at our founding, just like "privileges and immunities" rights weren't protected beyond propertied white men upon ratification of the Constitution either; we aspire to the principle; execution in an environment of prejudice is always challenging. I read the book because I wanted to understand how well Mr. Whitten communicated with the religious right so intent on revising history and pushing to mutate our government into a form of theocratic fascism and whether he provided an adequate argument to cause those that really care for our country to reconsider their attempts to extend the government power and reduce our religious freedom.

First off, while the title of the book is provocative, it will most likely immediately alienate his target audience. I doubt most evangelicals and fundamentalists define "myth" the way a historian or scholar would, instead believing it to mean "lie". Since most people seek out books to re-affirm their beliefs rather than challenge those beliefs, the title alone will significantly reduce the number of people who will buy and read Whitten's book that are a member of Whitten's target audience.

The book is structured into 9 distinct essays, some of which I will expound on:

Religious Liberty for Thee, But Not for Me?
Whitten make the case that religious liberty can only be assured if the government is unable to endorse a particular religion. A short well-written argument that is self-evident to any rational person; Whitten also expounds the point that it is irrelevant to the leaders of today's religious right since its not religious freedom they want, they already have that, it is the desire to use the power of the government to transform their dogma into law depriving Americans of some of their freedoms.

The Facts of Church-State Separation
While Whitten provides some evidence that our founders' objective was to create a wall, he depends too much on subsequent Supreme Court rulings rather than source material from our founders themselves. I would have added the text within the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli since it was formal U.S. policy signed by President Adams and unanimously ratified by Congress, which stated: "As the government of the United States 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 Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."

I would have also added numerous policy decisions by early Presidents reinforcing our secular government, along with providing information regarding the enemies of the framing of our Constitution, like Patrick Henry mentioned in a previous reader's review.

I believe this chapter also needed a discussion on the difference between the framers' verbal comments regarding their support of religion in Americans' lives and why their policy decisions (like the Tripoli Treaty or Madison's veto of government funding of faith-based charities) came down squarely on reinforcing an institutional separation between church and state. Recently Justice Scalia dissented in a 10C case (McLeary v. KY) where Scalia ignored founding policy and used verbal rhetoric providing evidence that our framers had faith; as if that somehow equated to their intent to institutionalize their faith by extending government power to endorse a particular sect.

The chapter where Mr. Whitten really shines is in the chapter commenting on the relationship between the two 1st amendment religion clauses and whether the original intent was to have equilibrium or whether one clause should be interpreted more broadly than the other term. I learned quite a bit from Mr. Whitten's analysis and believe this was the best commentary on this subject I've ever read. Mr. Whitten appears not to favor either of the three arguments, instead providing a fair analysis of all three and thus pushing me into a new area of interest. This would be an excellent topic for a new book by Mr. Whitten.

In the year 2005, the propagandists have been provided an even larger forum to distort our true legacy without rebuke; books like these are needed more now than ever before. I'd love to see Mr. Whitten republish this book, only with a new title and more evidence of the radical tact our framers took in creating a government of "We the People" with a government unable to govern our spiritual life or create 2nd class citizens of those that don't subscribe to the majoritarian sect or faction.

Regarding a below review by Mr. Tooley; his review states, "America was not founded by religionist but by Christians. It was not founded upon religions but upon the gospel of Jesus Christ" Patrick Henry"

While Patrick Henry helped America greatly to revolt against King George III, Henry did NOT advocate ratification of our Constitution partially based on its inherent secularism. Not only did Henry decide not to attend the Philadelphia Convention though he was invited, additionally he actively lobbied his state of Virginia NOT to ratify the Constitution. Previous efforts by Henry to establish the Christian religion in Virginia also failed, James Madison led an effort (culminiating in Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance" essay) where Virginia's General Assy overwhelmingly defeated Henry's bill to establish Christianity as the State Religion and one year later, 1786, guaranteed Virginia's citizens religious freedom by a vote of 67 to 20.

So while Mr. Tooley's quote may be correct, I didn't verify it, it is certainly true that Mr. Tooley is quoting someone who is assurdely NOT a framer of the Constitution, the highest law of the land and the document which dictates the structure of our secular government whereby Americans claim certain rights and deprives the government of certain powers - like establishment of religion.
"Myth" makes its own myth  Jul 5, 2004
Whitten deals very little with documents, court cases, and ordinances which clearly show that the framers valued and sought to foster religious moral principles as beneficial to the nation. The moral priciples of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. were influences recognized as beneficial by the framers. Whitten argues that the idea of "Christian America" is a myth, but does not define "Christian America" as the framers would have. The focus of "Christian America" is the major moral influence of Christianity upon the nation. For example, an avowed Christian, Benjamin Rush is quoted "Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohamed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles..." Although these religions are wholly incompatible in their specific doctrines they do share moral priniciples superior in benefit to the governance of the nation than any produced by a subjective secular society.
Whitten makes the implication that the bugaboos of the Religious Right intend to make the case that America was a specifically "Christian Nation" to force its agenda on others. I don't think his assertion is accurate or well supported.
Whitten upholds the thinking of the Everson court regarding separation doctrine. He does accurately point out that excising religious expression from the public square is not the intent of "separation of church and state". The framers clear intent was that the federal government did not have the power to restrict the exercise of religion or to fund/favor a particular sect or denomination(or other religion) as England and other governments had done previously.
The current separtion doctrine of the Supreme Court is at odds with the Constitution and usurps the rights of States and individuals. Our secular ayatollahs now exercise power over religion never intended for them.
Through the Looking Glass  Apr 9, 2004
The author of the book, Mark Whiten is the president of The Greater Houston Area Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State (AU). The AU is a organization that borders on being a strict separationist group. However, Mr. Whiten in his book, portrays himself as a middle of the road seperationist, this false duality however bleeds through making one wonder why the façade.

The book starts off portraying the normal left wing reactionary attack on religion. He incites the ignorant by his rhetoric that religious nuts want to impose a theocracy on us. These wacko's try to achieve this by telling us that the United States of America was started by our founding fathers to create a Christian (theocratic) state. Unfortunately this is a straw man as even finally Mr. Whiten tacitly admits, most clearly, on page 86, the only `Christian' group wanting to impose a theocracy are the Reconstructionist and this group is of minute proportions. So the actual question is what do most members of the mainstream religious right say about the United States and its founders. Well something like this:

"The Christian religion, though its moral and religious teachings and its cultural influences, was a significant personal influence upon the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787, and thus indirectly upon the constitution they drafted."

That's it, that's those supposed fanatical religious right have to say about the subject. Oh by the way, that quote comes right out of the authors' mouth on page 35. You see he even admits it. The dirty truth that Mr. Whiten doesn't want let out is that the United States of America was founded just as Patrick Henry said

"America was not founded by religionist but by Christians. It was not founded upon religions but upon the gospel of Jesus Christ" Patrick Henry

The crux of the book seems to be the applauding of judicial revisionism that occurred in the 1940's regarding the establishment clause of the 1st amendment. For those who are unaware from when the constitution was written to the 1940's a total of 160 years the establishment clause had been interpreted in one way.

In the 1940's through a liberal activist supreme court they reinterpreted the constitution to mean the opposite of its plain reading and original intent. This broad range and seeping decision created tensions between the establishment clause and the free exercise clause as the author has noted. Before this misinterpretation there was no tension and very little need for any judicial judgments on these matters. Now we have a quagmire of unclear rulings that hinder the free exercise clause while promoting the establishment clause.

What is interesting is this very fear was exactly what the first amendment was created to stop. It is also noteworthy that this issue is exactly what Thomas Jefferson was speaking about when he answered the Danbury Baptists in his infamous letter. So while Mr. Whiten pays lip service to his favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson he in effect works for the antithesis of what Thomas Jefferson wanted. Mr. Whitten views Thomas Jefferson and the panoply of his writings and works through the proverbial `looking glass'.

The very amendment that is crucial to what makes America great has been weakened and the author is gleeful over this. I wonder if Mr. Whiten realizes that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are inexorably linked. As he and others try to impose limits on religion they are also imposing limits on our freedom of speech. Sorry Mr. Whiten, I would rather have this country guaranteeing freedom OF speech along with freedom OF religion. Your goal of freedom FROM religion will logically lead to the pernicious freedom FROM speech.

To sum up maybe we ought to reflect upon the sage advice of Thomas Jefferson: "The Constitution . . . is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please."


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