I am apparently one of these secular pagans.
In the latest example of the Christian Right's failure to fully grasp the complexity of the American founding, David Lane of the American Renewal Project has chosen to criticize me at the website of the Christian magazine Charisma.
I have written about Lane before. I am quoted in a recent Reuters piece about Lane and his attempt to get evangelical ministers to run for political office. I also wrote a blog post in the wake of that article. Yet Lane does not want to address those articles. Instead, he has chosen to focus on a recent interview I did with National Public Radio that appeared over Thanksgiving weekend.
I will try to respond to Lane's Charisma article point by point:
Yes, the settlers of Virginia did want to propagate the Christian religion in Jamestown. Thanks to new scholarship in this area, along with archaeological finds, we now know that religion played an important role in the colony. Yet I would argue that Anglicanism and other forms of Christianity never came to define the culture of 17th-century Virginia in the way that Puritanism defined the culture of 17th-century Massachusetts Bay or Plymouth.
This is a reference to the Swedish charter associated with colony of New Sweden on the banks of the Delaware River. New Sweden functioned as a colony between roughly 1638 and 1655. It existed before the English settlement of the region. The Swedish Lutheran Church was an important cultural institution in New Sweden and, as I have argued, these Swedish churches remained on the Delaware Valley landscape after the English settlement.
Lane is correct. The Massachusetts Constitution does promote religious freedom. Lane could have strengthened his argument further here by noting that the Congregational Church was the established religion in Massachusetts until the early 1830s. Either Lane is unaware of this, did not have the space to develop his thoughts, or he realized that the Massachusetts establishment may not be useful for his religious freedom argument. Lane also fails to note that the religious establishment in Massachusetts was perfectly legal since the Constitution, until the passing of the 14th amendment, did not apply to the states. No serious student of early New England should be surprised that the Massachusetts Constitution had a religious establishment since John Adams and the other framers were products of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts that also had a religious establishment As I said in my NPR interview with Gjeltin, New England is just one "pocket" of colonial America.