What did religion mean to our founding forefathers?

The first fact that must be established is that when we speak of founders we speak of the individuals who fought the British and wrote the United States Constitution. We are not speaking of the pilgrims who sailed to the New World for their own religious freedom and who did not allow any religious freedom to people not of their own persuasion. Most pilgrims apart from the Puritans in Colonial Massachusetts came to the New World for economic opportunities. Further, the Puritan form of strict, orthodox religious governance had fizzled out by 1776. Notably, the Puritans would not have accepted people from the many Christian denominations that later peopled the colonies. It was their way or the highway.


The founders were Christian and religious for the most part. However, not all shared the same personal beliefs and not all shared the same level of religiosity. Those who were Deists did not believe in the hands-on God who rules for the modern Christians today. Jefferson was a skeptic but he strongly supported religious liberty. President Adams declared in a 1797 treaty, “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.â€


Christianity was specifically not mentioned in the Constitution or Bill or Rights and America was not founded as a theocracy. The Founders of the American republic were influenced by a variety of sources that included Christian ideas and secular ideas that sprung from the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries that emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition. It is important to note that the great intellectuals of the Enlightenment were extremely skeptical of Christianity.


The founders were influenced by English legal and political traditions, political disasters experienced in Europe under governments heavily influenced by the Pope, state interests, self interests, and class issues. We must be aware they used the language of the times in their writings, which was rife with religious expression and educated people were generally the products of religious educators. If the Founders were confronted by the language of today they would not likely understand it.

Everyone wants to debate whether or not the founding father of this country were Unitarian Universalist, Christian, Deists, atheist, or what. And the truth is that they were all of these, but Christians were the largest percentage. So what! They were also racist and slave owners. They also were chauvinist and did not feel the need to give women rights. Just because they were the founding fathers does not make them right about everything. To save argument, if they did see this country as a Christian nation and wanted to implement Christian values in our policies does that matter anymore than the fact that they felt slave owning was fine, or that the only people who needed to vote were white men? We have found them to wrong on many issues such as these and have corrected it so why would this be any different. The church, the bible and religion should have NO effect on the governing body of this nation. The religious right so often want laws made or done away with such as abortion or gay marriage and their defense for their argument is a quote from the Bible. Well it does not work that way. And if you think that just because you are the majority you can do whatever you want, then you need to get educated.

What helped our forefathers create a great nation and form of government were their principles and ethical sense of right and wrong. They were not perfect individuals but were at the forefront of their time in bringing about a better form of government than had existed prior to their time, drawn in part from their readings of great writers such as John Locke, historical understandings of ancient Greece, etc. Without doubt, the majority were Christians and Deists. Certainly the principles and standards we hold dear will color how we think, behave, relate to others and and carry out our business; so it was for them. The Judaeo-Christian influence would reflect itself then as it does now in current society, though modified over time. Regarding slavery and women's rights, we can not hold our forefathers to the same standards that, over time and with great struggles and debate, we have come to understand, fight for, and set in law in contemporary society. Likewise, it can be hoped that future generations, with their advanced knowledge and hard won gains, attained over time, will not look back and judge our best efforts based on their more enlightened understanding of how to create a better world.

Short answer: To say that they were Christian is misleading. The Founding Fathers were influenced by the Age of Reason.

To better understand their views on religion, you should read both their writing and the writing of the Enlightenment itself. Answer

To our founding forefathers, religion meant social control. Benjamin Franklin and others observed that Christianity prevents anarchy. Many times that was the only support most of the forefathers would give to established religious beliefs. Answer

Religion meant a lot to our Founding Fathers, if you read quotes they are always saying that the almighty helped us and was there with us today. I think God had a lot to do with it he saved this country for his true religion and was not going to let the British stop it. Answer

To our Founding Fathers, religion ment Christian (on the most part).

When I started to research this subject, it didn�t take long to realize that our nation was indeed founded on Judeo/Christian principles. If you want proof, read America�s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations by William J. Federer (Coppell, TX: Fame Publishing, Inc.). This book contains over 2,100 quotes from nearly 700 sources highlighting America�s Christian heritage. Next, read our country�s early charters written in the early 1600�s, the compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower in 1620, the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania in 1701. After reading these, take a look at the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Many of these documents are very religious.

What did our Founding Fathers say?

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. (George Washington, father of our country)

Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society. (John Adams, second President)

Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments. (Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence)

It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue. (John Adams)

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. (John Quincy Adams, sixth President)

Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature. (Benjamin Franklin, signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence)

If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by Him....Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants. (William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania)

It is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God's, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar's. (William Penn)

If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy, If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end. (Daniel Webster, early American Senator)

Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits�Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. (Daniel Webster)

If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity. (Daniel Webster)

Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers. (Fisher Ames, framer of the First Amendment)

The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. (Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence)

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism. (Benjamin Rush)

No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example. (Thomas Jefferson)

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. (John Jay, founding father and America�s first Supreme Court Chief Justice and Co-Author of the Federalist Papers)

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruptions of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. All efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them. (Jedediah Morse, father of American Geography)

Benjamin Franklin Morris was a notable American historian, who in 1864 wrote "The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States." In this book, he states:

These fundamental objects of the Constitution are in perfect harmony with the revealed objects of the Christian religion. Union, justice, peace, the general welfare, and the blessings of civil and religious liberty, are the objects of Christianity, and always secured under its practical and beneficent reign. The state must rest upon the basis of religion, and it must preserve this basis, or itself must fall. But the support which religion gives to the state will obviously cease the moment religion loses its hold upon the popular mind. This is a Christian nation, first in name, and secondly because of the many and mighty elements of a pure Christianity which have given it character and shaped its destiny from the beginning. It is preeminently the land of the Bible, of the Christian Church, and of the Christian Sabbath....The chief security and glory of the United States of America has been, is now, and will be forever, the prevalence and domination of the Christian Faith.

If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ. (Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut)

Education is useless without the Bible. (Noah Webster, father of public education in America)

The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts found in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation. . . . All the evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. . . . For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts. (Noah Webster)

Listen to what others have to say on the subject.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), French philosopher and Statesman who visited America during the American Revolution observed:

Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth. The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live. There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and their debasement, while in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world fulfills all the outward duties of religion with fervor. Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.

Everyone interested in Church/state issues should read Alexis de Tocqueville's work, �Democracy in America.� A significant portion of this work is dedicated to the religious element of early American life.

Supreme Court Justice Brewer is not one of our founding fathers, however, his statements show that for over 100 years it was common knowledge that religion played a very important role in government. On February 29, 1892, in the case of �Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States,� Justice Josiah Brewer, wrote the following.

These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. The commission to Christopher Columbus� that �it is hoped that by God�s assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered�� The first colonial grant made to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584� and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided that they �be not against the true Christian faith�� The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606� commenced the grant in these words: ��in propagating of Christian Religion to such People as yet live in Darkness�� Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that colony�in 1609 and 1611; and the same is true of the various charters granted to the other colonies. In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant. The celebrated compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower, 1620, recites: �Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith�a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia�� The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1638-1639, commence with this declaration: ��And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union�there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God�to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess�of the said gospel [which] is now practiced amongst us.� In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701, it is recited: ��no people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyment of civil liberties, if abridged of�their religious profession and worship�� Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of the Divine in human affairs in these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights� appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions� And for the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.� �We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth� because of a general recognition of this truth [that we are a Christian nation], the question has seldom been presented to the courts� There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons: they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, it was decided that, Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law�not Christianity with an established church�but Christianity with liberty and conscience to all men.

Justice Josiah Brewer continues listing case after case in support of his statements and then concludes by stating:

The happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality.

Religion, morality, and knowledge [are] necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty, and the happiness of mankind.

Justice Brewer also wrote a book in 1905 called �The United States: A Christian Nation.� In his book, Brewer states:

We classify nations in various ways. As, for instance, by their form of government. One is a kingdom, another an empire, and still another a republic. Also by race. Great Britain is an Anglo-Saxon nation, France a Gallic, Germany a Teutonic, Russia a Slav. And still again by religion. One is a Mohammedan nation, others are heathen, and still others are Christian nations. This republic is classified among the Christian nations of the world. It was so formally declared by the Supreme Court of the United States. But in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in the public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation-in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world.

I encourage you to see for yourself that our founding fathers were not only a deeply religious people but they understood that good government, liberty, and happiness could only last with a firm religious foundation. They believed that when religion is removed from government, you remove the only lasting and meaningful reference point for morality and without morality, government will degrade and collapse into tyranny.

Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, put it this way:

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself.

What about Public Education in America?

In 1828, after working 26 years writing �An American Dictionary of the English Language,� Noah Webster, the father of public education in America wrote in the preface of this great work:

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed....No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.

I think it�s interesting how crime in our schools increased shortly after removing God and prayer from schools. When I was in grade school the worst things that happened were running in the halls and chewing gum in class. Then we started removing God from our lives. The further we pushed God out of our lives the worst things got. Now, in place of God, we have guns, drugs, and sex in our schools.

The New England Primer

The New England Primer was the first textbook ever printed in America. It was used to teach reading and Bible lessons in our schools until the twentieth century.

Introduced in the Boston public schools in 1690, the New England Primer was a required textbook from which every first grader learned grammar and spelling.

The book opened with the following prayer:

HOW glorious is our heavenly King, Who reigns above the Sky! How shall a Child presume to sing His dreadful Majesty!

How great his Power is none can tell, Nor think how large his grace: Nor men below, nor Saints that dwell, On high before his Face.

Nor Angels that stand round the Lord, Can search his secret will; But they perform his heav'nly Word, And sing his Praises still.

Then let me join this holy Train; And my first Off'rings bring; The eternal GOD will not disdain To hear an Infant sing.

My Heart resolves, my Tongue obeys, And Angels shall rejoice, To hear their mighty Maker's Praise, Sound from a feeble Voice.

The 1900 reprint of the New England Primer described, within its pages, the impact of the book by stating:

The New England Primer was one of the greatest books ever published. ...It reflected in a marvelous way the spirit of the age that produced it, and contributed, perhaps more than any other book except the Bible, to the molding of those sturdy generations that gave to America its liberty and its institutions.

Also contained in its pages were several prayers including the Lord�s prayer, the Christian Creed, Bible verses, hymns, the Catechism, and of course lessons on grammar and spelling.

This clearly shows, with out a doubt, that for over 200 years our schools and our government had no problem with prayer, hymns and Bible verses in our schools.

Summary

Let me make an important distinction here. I don�t believe that our founding fathers were trying to form a Christian government or one that was run exclusively by Christians. Certainly not. They saw what could happen in the name of religion in Europe. Instead, what our founding fathers wanted was a government that was friendly to all religions and built upon the moral and ethical foundation of the Bible.

The Bible provided the moral anchor without which government would become hopelessly lost in a sea of ideas and beliefs. They believed that government should not interfere in religion in any way, and because the government was built on a Biblical foundation, it should never turn its back on that foundation and always be supportive of it.

Our founding fathers believed it was perfectly acceptable to teach the Bible and pray in our schools as they did for over 200 years. It was perfectly acceptable to acknowledge God by opening Congress and the Supreme Court with prayer as they themselves did.

Our founding fathers would have applauded the phrase �In God we trust� on our money and �One nation under God� in our pledge of allegiance. There is no doubt that our founding fathers would have supported the placement of Justice Roy Moore's 2.6-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the state building in Alabama. They would have applauded each of these acts because none of these acts constitute the establishment of a church or a religion but simply acknowledge the religious foundation upon which our government was built. Answer

Christianity was all they knew and most rejected the strict ideas in christianity. They did fear for their lives because the Inquisitions and Crusades were not that far from their memory. The treaty of tripoli "The US is not in any sense founded on the xian religion". When there were motions to have christianity/jesus inserted in founding documents it was always denied by majority vote. In god we trust and under god were only added when fear was used during the McCarthy era. Remove them and return the Pledge and currency to the original form.

Answer

In regards to the lie about the "Treaty of Tripoli" above, I must point out that in the translation of the treaty that was received and ratified by the Senate, the phrase "The United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion" DOES NOT EXIST.

It is to be remembered that the Barlow translation is that which was submitted to the Senate (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 18-19) and which is printed in the Statutes at Large and in treaty collections generally; it is that English text which in the United States has always been deemed the text of the treaty.

As even a casual examination of the annotated translation of 1930 shows, the Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic; and even as such its defects throughout are obvious and glaring. Most extraordinary (and wholly unexplained) is the fact that Article 11 of the Barlow translation, with its famous phrase, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion," does not exist at all. There is no Article 11. The Arabic text which is between Articles 10 and 12 is in form a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant, from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. How that script came to be written and to be regarded, as in the Barlow translation, as Article 11 of the treaty as there written, is a mystery and seemingly must remain so. Nothing in the diplomatic correspondence of the time throws any light whatever on the point.

A further and perhaps equal mystery is the fact that since 1797 the Barlow translation has been trustfully and universally accepted as the just equivalent of the Arabic. Its text was not only formally proclaimed as such but has been continuously printed and reprinted as such; and yet evidence of the erroneous character of the Barlow translation has been in the archives of the Department of State since perhaps 1800 or thereabouts; for in the handwriting of James Leander Cathcart is the statement quoted above that the Barlow translation is "extremely erroneous"; and while the Italian translation of the Arabic text on which that endorsement appears, presents its own linguistic difficulties, largely owing to its literal rendering and its consequent non-literary character as Italian, it is none the less in essence a reasonable equivalent of the Arabic. Indeed, allowing for the crudeness of the original Arabic and the changes which always result from a retranslation, it may be said that a rendering of the Italian translation into English gives a result which is in general not dissimilar from the English translation of Doctor Snouck Hurgronje of 1930; and of course the most cursory examination of the Italian translation would show (assuming the Italian to be even an approximation of the Arabic), that the Barlow translation, as Cathcart wrote, was "extremely erroneous"; but nothing indicating that the Italian translation was even consulted has been found, and it does not appear that it was ever before 1930 put into English. Some account of the Italian translation as a document is given above.

EDIT: The poster directly above is, in fact, incorrect. While there is some question if Article 11 was in the version that was brought back from Algiers, there is NO question that Article 11 DID exist in the translated version ratified by the US. It's also worth noting that the existence of Article 11 did not cause any sort of issue with the US Government of that time, and it was all unanimously passed.

Answer

The Founding Fathers, contrary to the long-winded assertion above, did not see religion as some sort of absolute requirement for a just society. In fact, a great many of their views were just the opposite; charismatic charletans like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have existed throught human history, and the men who created the framework of the American government were all too aware of their destructive influence and ability to incite violence and bigotry by appealing to the baser natures of lesser men.

However, they were in no way enemies of religion's existence, and never sought to banish religion or the talk of a Creator from the public discourse and awareness. The Constitution specifically spells out that there shall be no religious test administered as a condition of holding office, and this means that Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist and Pagan alike are eligible, so long as the electorate shall choose them.

Unfortunately, the average person will always look for some sort of prepackaged worldview which is able to be adopted without examination, and these are always rigid and dogmatic as a matter of course; the atheistic mindset so often celebrated in modern mass culture is no more flexable nor adaptive than the brimstone-laden religious fundamentalism at which it delights in sneering.

The Founding Fathers wanted nothing to do with any such intellectual laziness, however, and sought always to employ Reason in its highest forms to develop the truest possible understanding of the world, man's place in it and the nature of right and wrong. Theirs was not a wholesale rejection nor endorsement of religion, but rather a willingness to consider religion without being ruled by it, and a belief that every American citizen should always enjoy the same freedom.

Answer

It is easy to say "The Founding Fathers, contrary to the long-winded assertion above, did not see religion as some sort of absolute requirement for a just society" and rail against bogeymen like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. However, perhaps producing some actual proof might be better than these empty complaints. For the "long-winded" assertion above was long-winded for one reason only: that they provided many quotes from founding fathers on the importance of religion (meaning Christianity) to them and to the country they were founding.

It is of course true that the Constitution says in Article VI that there shall be no religious test administered for holding office. However, this does not mean that either (a) the fathers had any ideas of "Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist and Pagans" running for public office; nor that (b) citizens cannot legitimately use religious beliefs (or lack of same) as a criterion for choosing who they want in office, only that the government cannot impose a test (for which we should all be grateful).

In fact, citizens use many different criteria for choosing from the available candidates, many of which have nothing to do with how effective the candidate will be to the country as a whole. Many liberal candidates would decry somebody choosing based on religion: hence Ralph Nader's refusal to identify his religion in a recent election. However, they shamelessly go after votes promising their own constituencies personal gain and promising to stick it to the rich and religious right. Since many people believe that the candidate's religious beliefs DO play an important role in how they govern (whether or not the above answerer does personally or not is of no consequence), this criterion for office is as valid as any other.