Politifact took a look at Bryan Fischer’s repeated claim that the First Amendment applies only to Christianity and not to any other religion and rates it a “pants on fire” lie. Fischer told them that his source for that claim is Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story:
Fischer told PunditFact that he relied on the 1833 writings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Story. President James Madison nominated Story to the court in 1811. Story had a narrow view of the First Amendment.
“The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity,” Story wrote, “but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.”
But Story certainly is not one of the founding fathers. In fact, he was 8 when the Constitution was written. And his views were flatly contradicted by some of the key founders:
Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and the author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution, said “the founders were certainly aware of other religions besides Christianity, and discussed them at length in their writings.”
Kidd pointed us to a 1818 letter from John Adams: “This country has done much. I wish it would do more; and annul every narrow idea in religion, government and commerce,” Adams wrote. “It has pleased the providence of the first cause, the universal cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews, but to Christians and Mohomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”
Benjamin Franklin also weighed in on the subject. Jan Ellen Lewis, professor of history at Rutgers University, cited Franklin’s autobiography, when he praised a new meeting house built in Philadephia.
“The design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general,” Franklin wrote. “So that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”
In his autobiography, Thomas Jefferson spoke directly to the debate over the crafting of a Virginia statute for religious freedom. Jefferson describes a proposal to add the phrase “the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.”
“The insertion was rejected by a great majority,” Jefferson wrote, “In proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
As always, Fischer is making claims for which there are no evidence.