State Constitutions

At the time of the Revolution, all but a fraction of the American colonial population was Christian, and largely Protestant. At least seventy-five percent of the colonists had grown up in Puritan families. More than half of the remaining twenty-five percent were followers of Calvinism, in one form or another. Some argue the Calvinist influence was much greater. Indeed, according to scholar John Eidsmoe, "many, if not the vast majority of colonial Americans came from Calvinistic backgrounds. The colonists lived in the shadow of the Reformation." Eidsmoe quotes Dr. Loraine Boettner as saying "that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin."

The state constitutions also based their authority on the Christian religion, though perhaps not to the extent that the colonial charters did. Writing in the mid-1860s, B. F. Morris observed in his Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, "The men who have founded states on written constitutions have always resorted to religious sanctions to give practical power to their constitutions and to enforce the laws of the government." State constitutions were filled with religious references permitting varying amounts of religious freedom. Contrary to current understanding, at least eight of the American colonies in 1775 had established churches-those preferred, sanctioned, and supported by the state. Even Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black acknowledged this fact in, of all places, his majority opinion banning voluntary public school prayer. Black wrote, "Indeed as late as the time of the Revolutionary War, there were established churches in at least eight of the thirteen former colonies and established religions in at least four of the other five." Other scholars have said that at least nine of the thirteen colonies had established churches at the time.12

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