A Nation Under God: Jews, Christians, and the American Public Square

Jews, Christians, and a “Nation under God."

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia found himself on foreign soil, at an international legal conference in Rome. Shocked by what had occurred, the participants at the conference gathered around a television to watch President Bush address the nation and the world. “When the speech had concluded,” Scalia recounts, “one of the European conferees—a religious man—confided in me how jealous he was that the leader of my nation could conclude his address with the words ‘God bless the United States.’” Such invocation of God, the conferee assured the Justice, was absolutely unthinkable in the conferee’s country, “with its Napoleonic tradition of extirpating religion from public life.”

In Scalia’s mind, the sentiment illustrated the fact that while one may instinctively group the United States with the democratic states of Western Europe, in truth, the former differs profoundly from the latter. Americans, Scalia argued, continue to remind themselves that while they live in a democracy, indeed the oldest democracy on earth, it is not, and never has been, a secular one.

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Jews, Christians, and a “Nation under God."…

Jews, Christians, and a “Nation under God."…