Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

Jay Sekulow, the prominent conservative legal activist, has a fascinating post over at our new blog, Lynn v. Sekulow. He says Gov. Sarah Palin signed a proclamation which declared October 21-27th as “Christian Heritage Week” in Alaska.
The full text:

WHEREAS, the celebration of Christian Heritage Week, October 21-27, 2007, reminds Alaskans of the role Christianity has played in our rich heritage. Many truly great men and women of America, giants in the structuring of American history, were Christians of caliber and integrity who did not hesitate to express their faith. Some of their legacies are evidenced as follows:
WHEREAS, the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of Alaska begins with, “We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land”
WHEREAS, Benjamin Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention stated, “It is impossible to build an empire without our Father’s aid. I believe the sacred writings which say that, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalm 127:1).”
WHEREAS, George Washington enunciated, “animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and conducting ourselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, we may enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.”
WHEREAS, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
WHEREAS, James Madison, father of the United States Constitution advocated “the diffusion of the light of Christianity in our nation” in his Memorial and Remonstrance.
WHEREAS, Patrick Henry quoted Proverbs 14:34 for our nation, “Righteousness alone can exalt a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
WHEREAS, George Mason, in his Virginia Declaration of Rights, forerunner to our United States Bill of Rights, affirmed, “That it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love and charity towards each other.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim October 21-27, 2007, as Alaska’s 9th Annual Christian Heritage Week in Alaska, and encourage all citizens to celebrate this week.

I have mixed feelings about such a proclamation. The actual langauge at the beginning does not state that this is “Christian nation” in any official way, just that many of its leaders were Christian. Technically, it speaks of the Christian heritage much as Irish citizens might talk about a state’s Irish heritage.
But the resolution plucks Founding Father quotes out of context to give misleading impressions about their views on the role of religion in society. James Madison would roll in his grave if he saw that Memorial and Remonstrance was quoted as part of a Christian Heritage resolution. He was a hard-core advocate of separation of church and state who even advocated against well-meaning government efforts to aid religion. Ben Franklin did make that comment about God’s intervention during the Constitutional convention but he also declared that he doubted the divinity of Christ. George Washington refused to take communion.
There’s been a cottage industry of Christian authors trying to convince other Christians that the Founders were all a bunch of strong evangelicals. The weren’t, and I’m disappointed that Palin fed those misconceptions. Someone ought to write a book about the real story of the Founders’ and religion.

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