Politics, Renewal, Social Commentary

Bring Back The Confessional State

Declaration of Independence, an 1819 painting by John Trumbull depicting the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress on June 28, 1776

America’s Founding Fathers declared their independence from the Protestant King of England, and fought a bloody eight-year war to make it happen. It was a war of secession and insurrection. Normally, I would have a problem with the treasonous acts of the Founding Fathers, but in their particular case (rare as it was), I think their actions were warranted and justified. The events of 1775 to 1783 were directly related to the Act of Settlement in 1701, which bound the English monarchy to Protestantism, and weakened the monarchy’s role in government. The American colonists’ primary dispute was with the English Parliament, not King George III. In fact, they pleaded with the king to defend them against the aggressive reign of Parliament. It wasn’t until after King George sided with Parliament, against the colonists, that the colonists declared him a “tyrant,” as they declared their own independence from the monarchy and the empire. Had the 1701 Act of Settlement not been so Anti-Catholic, and restrictive of the monarchy, things might have gone very differently. The Catholic kings of Medieval England were much stronger. They would have likely sided with the colonists against Parliament, not fearing Parliament’s wrath, thus preventing colonial secession and holding the empire together.

A strong Catholic king in England might have made all the difference for the American colonists back in the late 18th century. Alas, that didn’t happen. The monarchy was Protestant, and beholden to the tyranny of Parliament, as the colonists quickly found out. So, in one of the greatest ironies of world history, the Protestant colonists allied with King Louis XVI, of Catholic France, who was willing to help the colonists fight off the British, and win the war.

The colonists subsequently established their own republic in 1789. As much as Americans like to look down their noses at the French, and the French are likewise happy to reciprocate, the United States of America is the product of a war-pact between the Protestant colonies and Catholic France, against Protestant England. Yes, the United States was founded when Protestants allied with Catholics to defeat other Protestants. It’s just a historical fact, often downplayed and sometimes ignored, but a historical fact nonetheless. All of this happened before the French Revolution that destroyed that once great French monarchy (1789 – 1799). It should be forever noted that the USA owes its founding to the Catholic monarchy of France, not the multiple French republics that followed.

I think it’s a shame that the French monarchy fell in such a violent, and blasphemous, revolution. The French republics have never matched the glory of the Catholic Kingdom of France. Had the French monarchy survived the revolution, and remained intact, I think Americans would have greater appreciation for France, and its religious heritage. Today, there are many Catholics in the United States, at last count approximately 70 million, but had France remained Catholic to this day, I believe that number in America would be well over 100 million. Americans, in the 19th and 20th centuries, were deprived of ever seeing, or knowing, our great allies in Catholic France. Instead, after we bought their land here in North America (Louisiana Purchase), we watched France rise and fall under Napoleon, only to pick at itself for a hundred years. Eventually, we bailed France out of two world wars, effectively paying our independence debt back to them. Still, we Americans never saw Catholic France in all her glory. I’ve been told that a younger generation of French patriots are calling for a return of the monarchy. I hope they’re successful. It would be nice for a future generation of Americans to be reminded of the great Catholic kingdom that helped us win independence from the Protestant British Empire.

The Founding Fathers understood the contribution made by Catholic France to the United States of America. In the framing of the Republic, they modeled many of America’s governing principles on the writings of great Catholic thinkers, as pointed out in Timothy Gordon’s bestselling book Catholic Republic. Yes, the Freemasons were present at the founding of the United States, and they were quick to take credit for it, but when you really examine what the Founding Father’s produced in the US Constitution, it was clearly based on Catholic thinking, just re-branded to appear secular and pluralist.

I think that’s where the United States of America went wrong. In attempting to whitewash it’s Catholic underpinnings in government, it created the false illusion that governments don’t need religion. It gave the world the false impression that religion and government can be separated, and that the two can coexist independently of one another. History tells us a different story. While religion and government are not usually the same thing, one will always be subordinate to the other. Either government will be subordinate to religion, or else religion will be subordinate to government. In tyrannical dictatorships, it’s always the latter. Over the last two centuries, since America’s founding, we’ve seen our Republic slowly slip into a situation where religion is subordinate to government. Granted, the First Amendment to the US Constitution has helped slow this process significantly, but ever since the Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s, religion has consistently been on the retreat in American society.

This is why I believe in the confessional state, as opposed to the secular state, and by that I mean that government should recognize a specific religion as its own, because in doing so it helps both the government and the people find a moral compass in dealing with perplexing ethical issues of our time. At one time, all Western nations were confessional states, but it was the United States and France that began that fateful journey into secularism. It’s been a failure, and will continue to get worse in the years ahead. Currently, there are sixteen active, Christian, confessional states…

  1. Costa Rica (Catholic)
  2. Liechtenstein (Catholic)
  3. Malta (Catholic)
  4. Monaco (Catholic)
  5. Greece (Orthodox)
  6. England (Protestant)
  7. Guernsey (Protestant)
  8. Isle of Man (Protestant)
  9. Jersey (Protestant)
  10. Tuvalu (Protestant)
  11. Denmark (Protestant)
  12. Finland (Protestant)
  13. Sweden (Protestant)
  14. Iceland (Protestant)
  15. Faroe Islands (Protestant)
  16. Greenland (Protestant)

Being a confessional state doesn’t mean forcing people to accept a certain religion. At least, not in the Christian understanding of the confessional state. Perhaps that problem exists in Muslim confessional states, which we understand as Shariah Law, but in the Christian world we have learned that confessional states, that force their religion upon people, end up becoming tyrannical. England is an example of a nation that did the confessional state wrong. By forcing a particular religion on the monarchy, it weakened that monarchy. In forcing the same religion on the people, back in the 16th through 18th centuries, it alienated a large percentage of its population, which led to the persecution and eventual exodus of many of those people. No, what I advocate is a confessional state that is purely made for recognition sake, while allowing the people to believe whatever they want. For example, Costa Rica’s constitution puts it like this..

The Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the State, which contributes to its maintenance, without preventing the free exercise in the Republic of other forms of worship that are not opposed to universal morality or good customs.

“Costa Rica Constitution in English – Constitutional Law – Costa Rica Legal Topics”. costaricalaw.com

The Christian understanding of religion is one of voluntary choice. We don’t go around forcing people to join the Church against their will. The same holds true with the Christian confessional state. For example, a state may be Catholic, or Protestant, officially on paper, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the state practices the state religion. Nor does the state necessarily do anything to support that religion. It simply says that this particular religion is what the state recognizes and attaches itself too.

Notice I said “state” and not “nation.” There’s a reason for this. The United States is a federal union of states — a nation — of many states. Each state is its own unique country, and should have its own unique recognition of a state church. The federal government should have no declared religion, because its not a state/country. It’s a federal union of many states, and derives its identity from them. So the federal government simply needs to recognize that the states have a right to declare a particular religion as their state church, and only guarantee that such declarations do not amount to forced conversions or religious tests.

Each state should declare its state church based on the majority of adherents in that state, and this can be easily changed by state constitutional amendment, depending on popular vote. So when the state population changes, say from Protestant to Catholic, an amendment can be passed to change the state church, if the people desire to. So for example: in the following states, the largest religious group is the Catholic Church. Therefore, these states should declare their state religion as Catholic…

  1. Rhode Island
  2. Connecticut
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Jersey
  5. New York
  6. California
  7. Illinois
  8. Nebraska
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Arizona
  11. New Mexico
  12. Louisiana
  13. Minnesota
  14. Texas
  15. Wisconsin
  16. Florida
  17. Maryland

Likewise, the following states should declare their state religion as Protestant, Evangelical or non-descriptive “Christian”…

  1. Tennessee
  2. West Virginia
  3. Alabama
  4. Arkansas
  5. Kentucky
  6. Mississippi
  7. Oklahoma
  8. North Carolina
  9. South Carolina
  10. Wyoming
  11. Indiana
  12. North Dakota
  13. South Dakota
  14. Georgia
  15. Missouri
  16. Kansas
  17. Ohio
  18. Virginia
  19. Iowa

Obviously, the State of Utah would be Mormon, declaring the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” as their state church.

The following states have no clear religious identity, and in fact, the largest number of people surveyed have no religious affiliation at all. These states would probably remain secular (for the time being) and include…

  1. Oregon
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Washington
  4. Vermont
  5. Montana
  6. Alaska
  7. Colorado
  8. Maine
  9. Idaho
  10. Nevada
  11. Hawaii
  12. Delaware
  13. Michigan

Declaring a state church does not bind any citizen to that church, nor does it make tax dollars available to the church. What it would do is insure that no law can be passed against that church, the state cannot be frivolously sued by atheists for establishing religion, and that government would seek guidance from the moral precepts of the state church when writing laws. None of this violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, because the establishment clause only restricts the federal government from declaring a federal religion. This makes sense when each state has its own state religion, and indeed, that was the case with many states at the time the US Constitution was written. The following is a list of states that kept their official state religion after the US Constitution was ratified, along with the year they foolishly stopped recognizing a state church altogether…

  1. Connecticut (Congregationalist) 1818
  2. Georgia (Anglican) 1789
  3. Massachusetts (Congregationalist) 1834
  4. New Hampshire (Congregationalist) 1877
  5. South Carolina (Anglican) 1790

The point here is these five states maintained their state religion after the US Constitution was ratified. Some for a short time, others for a long time, but nobody contends that they were in violation of the US Constitution by keeping those state churches. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment only prohibits the federal government from declaring a religion, not the states.

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.

US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Article I

“Congress” is a reference to the federal government, not the states. The clause “respecting and establishment of religion” simply means that the federal government can’t establish a state religion, not because the Founders had anything against state religions, but because some of the states already had one! They just didn’t want the federal government trying to override them by declaring another one on top of those that already existed.

For those who say the 14th Amendment changed all that, by creating US citizenship apart from state citizenship, and thus giving the federal courts jurisdiction into the lives of Americans against their states, this argument falls flat on its face, since New Hampshire remained a Congregationalist state until 1877, long after the 14th Amendment was ratified. What the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled is that there can be no religious tests to hold state office and that religion cannot be taught in public schools, mainly because school children are captive audiences in a state institution. However, to this day, state legislatures open their sessions in prayer, as do city councils, and even the US Congress. Religion is still very much a part of American political life, even though it’s not currently codified in state churches. That can change though. It’s changed in the past, so it can change again in the future. Personally, I think it should, and I think we would all be better off if it did.