Okay, have any on you out there ever heard of Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli? I never knew, or really cared, until someone in the college paper here attempted to use a quote from it as proof that the US was not founded on Christian principles. To understand the context of his argument, the writer was pointing out that Atheists - a group he belongs to - are often misunderstood and vilified. I agreed with some of his article until he wrote the following which made the dastardly Christian conservative inside of me took pause:
"Contrary to popular belief, America wasn't "founded on Christian values." Just read any contemporary philosophers, or better yet, the Treaty of Tripoli, which states "...America is not in any sense founded as a Christian nation," ratified by John Adams and unanimously approved by Congress in 1794"
I couldn't believe what I had read, so I did a little research into the Treaty myself, plus looked into the historical context behind it. What I found was put in a letter to the editor the following day:
"The original text of the treaty reads: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”
"I believe [So and So's] use of Article 11 is taken out of context. The Treaty of Tripoli was signed between the US and the nations of the Barbary Coast – Islamic nations. When read in whole, Article 11 states that the US Government (not the nation) is not a Christian theocracy, but secular; that it is impartial concerning the religious affairs of the nations in question, and that the war itself was not fought on a Christian vs. Muslim basis.
"Oddly, Article 11 has no equivalent in the Arabic version of the treaty."
There are other fun tidbits - the original Treaty of Tripoli was eventually broken, and a new treaty was renegotiated and ratified in 1805. Article 11 is replaced by Article 14, which expounds on the fact the war was not waged on a religious basis. Oddly, the phrase "...not is any sense founded on the Christian Religion," is completely absent.
I understand that some groups and individuals like to use the 1796 treaty as proof that certain religious principles had nothing to do with the founding of the county. From the few sites I've seen that espouse this claim, the 1805 treaty is rarely, if ever mentioned.
I'll wrap this up with a point and a question.
The point: Its incredible what a little homework into history can do.
The question: Has anyone else come across this argument?
Thanks for taking the time to read my little tirade.