Mr. Romney dragged out the old chestnuts about “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, and the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance—conveniently omitting that those weren’t the founders’ handiwork, but were adopted in the 1950s at the height of McCarthyism. He managed to find a few quotes from John Adams to support his argument about America’s Christian foundation, but overlooked George Washington’s letter of reassurance to the Jews in Newport, R.I., that they would be full members of the new nation.
He didn’t mention Thomas Jefferson, who said he wanted to be remembered for writing the Declaration of Independence, founding the University of Virginia and drafting the first American law—a Virginia statute—guaranteeing religious freedom. In his book, “American Gospel,” Jon Meacham quotes James Madison as saying that law was “meant to comprehend, with the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.”
The founders were indeed religious men, as Mr. Romney said. But they understood the difference between celebrating religious faith as a virtue, and imposing a particular doctrine, or even religion in general, on everyone. As Mr. Meacham put it, they knew that “many if not most believed, yet none must.”
Even now, Indians have to fight for their right to worship: on sacred sites held by the federal government, in ceremonies that use peyote, in prisons, etc.
For a debate on the separation of church and state, see Where the "Wall" Came From.