A majority of the American people (51 percent) believes that the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to Charles C. Haynes. He says that this is a myth that needs to be dispelled.
Religious divisions among the many Protestant sects in 18th century America were deep and abiding. Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Congregationalists and many others fought bitterly over what it meant to be “Christian” – although almost all could agree that “Papists” (Roman Catholics) were followers of the anti-Christ.
In other words, religious diversity at America’s founding made a necessity of religious freedom because no one group had the power or the numbers to impose its version of true faith – Christian or otherwise – on all others.
It is worth remembering, however, that principles as much as practical politics inspired many of our founders to define religious freedom as requiring no establishment of religion.
Roger Williams, to cite the earliest and best example, founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 out of his conviction that only by erecting a “wall or hedge of separation” between the “garden of the church” and “the wilderness of the world” would it be possible to protect liberty of conscience as required by God.
Religious freedom, Williams argued, is itself a Christian principle.