There are many dishonest arguments made by the “Christian nation” crowd and here’s another one. When talking about the meaning and scope of the First Amendment to the Constitution, they will often talk instead about the early colonies. In an article about a Bible class in North Carolina, Christian News does exactly that:
As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in colonial schools for at least one hundred years. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all,” it read, in teaching children the alphabet, using Adam as an example of the letter A.
In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.
But this is in no way relevant. The nature of the early colonies, particularly in what later became the state of Massachusetts, were that of theocracies, not free societies. The Plymouth Bay Colony was not only a Christian theocracy, it was a specifically Puritan theocracy; even being the wrong kind of Christian — Baptist, Catholic, Quaker, etc — could result in jail, exile or even the death penalty. The passage of a constitution that forbid religious tests for office, guaranteed religious freedom and forbid religious establishments was a dramatic departure from such governments. Citing theocratic colonies as evidence for the proper scope of the First Amendment could hardly be a more absurd argument.