David Ignatius explores the writings of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (emphasis added):
My Christmastime reading of the Adams-Jefferson letters was prompted by this year’s most interesting political speech but one I also found troubling — Mitt Romney’s Dec. 6 speech on “Faith in America.” It was a fine evocation of our twin heritage of religion and religious freedom, until he got to this ritual denunciation of the bogeymen known as secularists. “They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.”
Anyone who reads Adams and Jefferson — or for that matter, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or other voices of the American Enlightenment — can make their own judgment about what the Founders would say about Romney’s broadside against secularism. My guess is that their response would be something like: “That is bunkum, sir.”
One theme in this year’s political campaign has been whether the United States will move from the faith-based policies the Bush administration has celebrated to a more rationalist and secular approach. In this debate, religious conservatives like to stress their connection to the Founders and to the republic’s birth as “one nation under God.” But a rereading of the Adams-Jefferson letters is a reminder that in this debate, the Founders — as men of the Enlightenment — would surely have sided with the party of Reason.