Though Donald Trump and his recent feud with the father of a decorated Muslim Army captain killed in Iraq has brought the discussion about Muslims in America to the public forum, it is not a new discussion.
During the time of our founding, Islam was a major religion in many parts of the world. Therefore, there were numerous Muslims living in America during the time of its founding. Naturally, there was great concern over Muslims taking over America’s Christian value system, especially since America was in a war against Islamic terrorists – the Barbary Powers War – that spanned over the presidencies of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
Concerning the fear of Muslims holding high office in America, Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, who was nominated to the Court by President Washington, stated:
But it is objected that the people of America may perhaps choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans (Muslims) may be admitted into offices. . . . But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own.
The purpose of the clause found in Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution stating “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” was born out of the overwhelming concern that our new Republic might establish a national religion. This was extremely dangerous to our founders, and reasonably so! Europe and England alike had recently plunged into horrific religious persecutions sanctioned by civil governments!
The Anglican Church of England had at its head none other than the King of England, and the brutal tactics of those under his authority proved to be calamitous and tragic to Americans, who often worshiped, taught, and evangelized in churches not sanctioned by the king.
The intent of our founders was not to sanction religions outside of Christianity, but rather in words of Supreme Court Justice and Father of American Jurisprudence, Joseph Story, “The real object of the (First) Amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism (Islam), or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
Lastly, we definitely need to understand that when our founders referred to religion, they were referring to the blessed religion of our Lord Jesus Christ – the same Lord they acknowledged when signing the Constitution “in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.”
Why were they so exclusive? Simple: because Christianity is the ONLY system of worship designed to bring liberty and freedom to all mankind, who were created in God’s image.