Fred Rich, who apparently has a novel coming out called Christian Nation, has a column at the Huffington Post about the desire of far too many American Christians for theocracy. He cites a recent poll, which I also cited, that shows an alarming number of Americans who think Christianity should be the official religion.
A YouGov Omnibus poll conducted this spring provides the answer: not at all. When asked whether they would favor or oppose establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their state, 34% of respondents were in favor (with 20% “strongly” in favor). You read that correctly: 34% in favor of establishing Christianity as the state religion, as in creating a theocracy. There’s more: when asked whether they would favor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution making Christianity the official religion of the United States, 32% said yes. This was a national poll; imagine what the numbers must have been in Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
Frightening, indeed. But he gets this quite wrong:
No, it was not the first of its kind “since the founding.” In fact, most states did have Christianity as their official religion after the founding of the country. After the passage of the Constitution, the original 13 states slowly began to disestablish their state churches, with Massachusetts being the last one to do so in 1833 (bear in mind that the First Amendment’s prohibition on religious establishments did not initially apply to the states, only to the federal government). But long after that, most states still had religious tests for office requiring that anyone holding public office be a Christian, sometimes a specific type of Christian. It wasn’t until 1961 that the Supreme Court made such requirements unenforceable.
Also this spring, a group of representatives in the North Carolina House introduced actual legislation — to my knowledge, the first of its kind since the founding of the republic — to permit that State, or any of its subdivisions, to declare Christianity its official religion. The North Carolina bill had a great deal of regional support, but was withdrawn by House leadership after a barrage of national criticism.
And there were dozens of attempts to amend the Constitution at the federal level to declare the United States an officially Christian nation; the last one was in 1980. All of them failed, obviously, but the North Carolina legislation is hardly unprecedented.