“Celebrate Our American Independence” by boning up on your knowledge of America’s secular origins with this fact-filled piece by MRFF Board Member John Compere

Published On: July 3, 2024|Categories: Top News|0 Comments|
Headshot of John Compere on American Flag background

We celebrate our American independence with a national patriotic holiday on July 4th commemorating the Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776 by the Second Continental Congress. It initiated a revolution against an oppressive occupying foreign monarchy, the British Empire, and its religion establishment, the Church of England. 

The Declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson, edited by Benjamin Franklin and approved by a committee of five Founders (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman). It used universal terms, listed grievances against the English monarchy and declared governments derive “their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed”  (not from a monarchy or its religion).The Revolutionary War followed winning independence for America and Americans in 1783. 

The American Flag, representing the 13 colonies with 13 white stars in a field of blue and 13 red and white horizontal stripes, was adopted on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress. Our secular flag has no other symbols or phrases and now includes 50 stars for the 50 states. 

The original National Mottoes adopted by our Founders in 1782 are “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many One), “Novos Ardo Seclorum” (New Order of the Ages) and “Annuit Coeptis” (Favored Undertakings). These secular mottoes remain on the US Great Seal, one-dollar bill and other official government documents.

The Constitution creating our independent republic and democratic government was signed September 17,1787. The Constitution Preamble provides six secular reasons our nation was founded by and for “We the People”.  We were the first nation in history independently established with a secular constitution not acknowledging any higher authority. We are one nation under our Constitution and it is the Constitution in which we trust.

James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”, proclaimed the Constitution “is derived from the superior power of the people” (public speech, June 6, 1788).There were no opening or closing prayers during the 116 day Constitutional Convention. The majority of early American colonists left Europe for independence from government and religion. Less than 20% of colonists belonged to religion establishments when independence was declared in 1776. Today, less than 50% of Americans are members of a church, synagogue or mosque (Gallup) and 1/3 of Americans identify as non-religious “Nones” (Pew Research). America is a nation of belief independence and freedom.

The Constitution (Article VI) mandates “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”  separating religion from government and protecting government from religion.

The 1st Amendment (1791) provides our historic religious liberties – freedom from government established religion and freedom of any religion (or no religion). It prevents our government from “respecting” religion establishments and “prohibiting”  free exercises of religion thus separating government from religion, protecting religion from government and requiring government neutrality regarding religion. Its genesis was the landmark 1785 Virginia Religious Freedom Statute authored by Thomas Jefferson and advocated by James Madison providing “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”.

It is established fact, history and law America was founded independently and not based on religion. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, an international legal document negotiated during 1st President George Washington’s administration, unanimously ratified by the US Senate (with many Founders) and signed by 2nd President John Adams, confirmed to the world “…the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”.

World history has recorded the human harm when government and religion combine. Separation of church and state is a principle of independence keeping government out of religion and religion out of government originating with the Protestant Reformation (16th Century) and Age of Enlightenment (17-18th Century) in Europe. Separation of church and state (religion and government) was our Founders’ intent as provided by their establishment documents and evidenced by the historical records. It is also provided in most state constitutions.

We were the first nation to constitutionally provide and protect independence of belief (religious or non-religious) by separating religion and government. It was also a basis for the historic document passed in 1948 by the United Nations declaring “ …everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” (Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).Jesus even separated government and religion (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17). The vast majority of American adults (73%) believe religion should be kept separate from government (Pew Research).

The history and significance of our American independence are found in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, 1777 Flag Act, 1782 National Mottoes, 1787 Preamble and Constitution, 1791 Bill of Rights and 1797 Treaty of Tripoli. The originals were written in English by Americans for Americans, still exist and are preserved in our national archives.

The eagle was selected as our national symbol by the Founders. Eagles are independent and do not flock or follow like herd species. May we celebrate our independence by being more like eagles and less like herded sheep.

John Compere
Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired)
Former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review and US Army Legal Services Agency
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Texas rancher

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