This recent quote by former House Majority Leader Tom Delay shocked me. “I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government,” DeLay told host Matthew Hagee, the executive pastor of the Texas Cornerstone Church. “[W]e stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.” That would have been dangerous talk in the days during which our country was founded. As Thomas Jefferson put it bluntly, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
Mr. Delay, the United States Constitution was written by men. Fifty five men to be precise and thirty nine of them would eventually sign it, representing 12 of the 13 states, as Rhode Island did not send a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. John Adams wrote, “Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence (sic) of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”  Among the religious interests represented were Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Quakers and Catholics, as well as a Deist or two. These men, all well-educated and of strikingly diverse backgrounds, each had concerns for the potential of a single, state endorsed religion above all others as well as protecting each individual’s natural right to religious expression. They were not far removed in time from the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition and were keenly aware of recent excesses of fanatical devotion. “Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.” . Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather was, in fact, a French Huguenot who fled France to avoid persecution by King Louis XIV, for simply being Protestant.
Intellectual advancements, such as the scientific method transformed the mystical arts of alchemy into modern chemistry and physics, turned eccentric wizard into respected scientist and ushered in a new age of inquiry and debate. They were witness to an awakening in the world that freed many from the slavery of blind faith and they understood the power of reason, observation and above all else, education. This wisdom allowed these intelligent, worldly men to devise a system of government that relied on the natural grace and integrity of humankind itself as a foundation for a civil society. “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” 
One of the most esteemed and honored figures of the time was Thomas Jefferson who professed his strongly held beliefs in a simple and concise manner. “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” He was a man who studied philosophy, history, geology, botany, and was curious about everything. Although author and signatory of many historically famous documents, he listed the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom one of his proudest accomplishments, second of three that he wished to be listed on his headstone.
So what happened? Apathy? Ignorance? Lack of interest? Why are we facing more and more religious tests, exceptions, exemptions and allowances, including continued tax-exempt status for churches, when these impulses for theocracy were foreseen and warned against strongly by our very own founders? Said the Connecticut Delegate, Oliver Wolcott, of what has come to be known as the Establishment Clause, “Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
Well said, sir. And oppression is what would ensue if current forces are allowed to continue their shadowy usurpation of power. From the Dominion movement in Evangelical Christianity to Christian militia groups in the Pacific Northwest and around the country, reaction to society’s progress by those unhappy with that progress is increasingly militant and fearful. As these populations continue to lose influence and long held privileges, Americans will have to be extra vigilant that religion never succeeds in taking over the reins of governance. Sorry Mr. Delay, you were wrong about almost everything else in your political career and you are most definitely wrong on this.
 Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
 John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)
 Oliver Ellsworth, Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.), The Founder’s Constitution, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Vol. 4, p. 638
 John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788
 Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799
 Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788