Church and state separation : The alternative history of America

This is a long one and probably full of strange typos. It’s an evolving document so I’ll be adding links and more information.

I wrote this after reading about this documentary that questions whether the founding fathers of the US really intended for church and state to be kept separate.

Wall of Separation

My first response is, so what? Even if the founding fathers favoured theocracy or pizza, why should that affect the way the US is today. It just so happens that a secular country is the best way to accommodate the beliefs and needs of everyone. Looking at America, I would say that religion has done pretty well there, mainly due to its freedom from state meddling. I never understand why people want to entrust the stewardship of their immortal souls to the same people who can’t organise a decent public transportation system.

After that, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write an alternative history of the US. Although this history contains well-known names, they are not the people we have come to know. The names are the same, so are the locations but their behaviour in no-way reflects the way they behaved in real-life.

America. An alternative history

We can look at an alternative situation. If the founding fathers had decided to incorporate religion in to government, it’s reasonable to assume that they would have chosen a particular (or select group) of Christian sects. The religious are not very good at sharing power with people they consider to be heretics – the religiously motivated conflict in the world are proof of this. Even the Blasphemy law of the UK is a good example since it protects Christianity but ignores all other religions. Christians may look the same to outsiders but there are very deep differences between the sects.

Roman Catholicism is the order of the day

First of all, let’s go to 1788 when the constitution was ratified. In the First Amendment we see the following text.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of other religions, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This decision was taken because the founding fathers were following the one true faith, Catholicism. All other branches of Christianity were considered invalid, after all The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus gave to us.

Other Christian sects suffer discrimination

The Baptist Church finds itself marginalised as its membership has dropped dramatically, most worshipers choosing to join the Catholic Church. Anglicans find themselves under similar pressure. The exodus is blamed mainly on the fact that non-Catholics have very few chances for advancement. Anyone wishing to enter public office must accept The Pope as God’s representative on Earth and the Catholic Church as the one true church of Christ.

One Bible for all

The government, seeking to return a truer faith pass a law forbidding the printing and distribution of any Bible other than the Catholic Bible. Since the no-one can get to God if not through the Church, local translations are frowned upon. Latin versions become the norm and some states go so far as to ban non-Latin versions from public building, including schools.

A pope, a king and a president walk in to a bar..

Pope Pius VI visits Philadelphia in 1793 to grant an audience to President John Adams. Adams receives confession and the sacrament. During the visit, letters of friendship are exchanged between Adams and the Charles IV of Spain. A treaty is later signed allowing co-operation between the two nations – later leading to US involvement in crushing the Mexican rebellion against the Spanish Crown.

Rebellion in Texas

In 1836, the US government, on request of the Viceroy of Mexico move in to Texas to assist in the removal of Protestant settlers that have mounted a rebellion against local Spanish rule. Sam Houston is released in to Spanish custody to stand trial for his part in the rebellion but dies in custody. By 1843, most settlers have left or converted to Catholicism.

A papal visit ending in death

In 1861, Pope Pius IX visits the new capital of Washington to grant an audience to the newly appointed President, Abraham Lincoln. During the visit, the Pope appoints Lincoln as the Patriarch of the US Catholic Church. Tragedy struck as the Pope is shot by Protestant militants while touring the capital. The Pope would later die of his wounds, leading to a terrible retribution against non-Catholics in the US.


The death of the Pope created an international outcry. Lincoln introduced harsh reforms intended to bring all in to the one true faith. Although not an official government policy, the few remaining non-Catholic churches were ransacked and burnt to the ground on many cases. Few churches remained, those that did were mainly found in the southern states where Protestantism was strongest.

A call to war

Later that same year, ten southern states declared the right to secession from the union and formed the Confederate Sates of America. This confederacy was led by President Jefferson Davis. The US rejected this claim and a bitter war began.

The confederacy scored some early victories but were crushed when Mexican forces crossed the border, on request of Pope Leo XIII. By 1865, confederate forces lay in tatters and a treaty was signed that reunited the states. Davis was excommunicated and later executed for heresy, along with much of his cabinet.

The death of Lincoln and a republic

In 1865, Lincoln is assasinated while in Washington DC Cathedral. The public immediately cry out for greater protection from the enemies of the Church. Andrew Johnson, a prominent cardinal is chosen to act as an interim president, like Lincoln he received the title of Patriach. In an overwhelming majority, Congress abolishes itself and hands power to the new Patriach. The senate is retained but reformed by the removal of elected members. All members of the new senate are chosen by the Church – consisting mainly of cardinals and primates of the Catholic Church.

Although autonomous, the Patriach is very closely advised by the Church. Around this time, non-latin Bibles are formally outlawed and the general public forbidden from reading the Bible.

In a series of what are seen as show-trials, heretics are regularly placed on trial and executed. Many manage to avoid execution by repenting and converting to Catholicism.

Industrialisation and too many mouths to feed

The year is 1897 and it’s around this time that the last of the native American faiths dies out. Most languages also have been eradicated through a missionary education program introduced to spread Catholicism among the remaining heathens.

As industrialisation takes hold, population of major cities becomes a serious problem. Contraception remains illegal so the average woman will give birth to 14 babies. Underground abortions are rife, leading to many deaths. To combat this problem, the Government introduces the death penalty for abortionists and those who seek them. At least 400 mothers are executed during a 3 year period. In several cases, the abortions were prevented but the mothers executed once they had given birth and weaned their children.

Realising that the population was becoming an issue, the government introduced a campaign of abstinence. This led to the Nineteenth Amendment in which women were allowed the right to dress modestly and remain in the home. This was believed to encourage moral behaviour that would reduce the number of pregnancies.

War comes, well not really

As war broke out in Europe, the US remained on the sidelines. The war drew to a close with a painful armistice that saw Germany disarmed and heavily in debt through reparations.

You wait 30 odd years for a war to come along then you get two at once

On request of Pope Pius XI, the US send forces to Spain to aid King Alfonso XIII in his struggle against a rebellion against his rule. The rebellion produces many casualties but ends in defeat for the rebels. Since the King’s forces had been significantly weakened, the US retains a presence in Spain.

After fragile years of peace, war in Europe erupted once more. Although pressed to enter the war on the side of the Allies, the US remained neutral following Pope Pius’s refusal to condemn Nazi violence against the Jews. Jewish immigration to the US increases, The Vatican providing financial assistance to Jews feeling the Nazis. Mexico notably follows the example and accepts large numbers of Jewish refugees.

The US is finally pressed to enter the war after Axis attacks on US civilian shipping and incursions in to Spanish territory. The war drags on but ends again in defeat for Germany.

A cold war

Tensions are still high as the victorious nations grab land and adjust to the new world. Russia emerges as a major power but finds little competition from the west.

The American Patriach seeks approval from the Senate to adjust foreign policy to spread the Christian message. His measures are passed with little dissent.

American foreign aid to countries that permit abortion or contraception is terminated. This destabilises much of Northern Africa where Communist rebel numbers increase. Islam also begins to spread down the east coast of Africa.

As well as aid, trade was also curtailed to countries determined to be ‘sinful’. This caused Europe, with the exception of Ireland and Span, to drift further away from America. In 1963 the US, Ireland and Spain signed a mutual defence treaty. The UK government objected strongly as the treaty could be used to assist in the removal of British forces from Northern Ireland. Although America would not provide direct military assistance, there is no doubt that much assistance was routed via the Vatican.


One Response to “Church and state separation : The alternative history of America”

  1. Church and state. What did the founding fathers want? « The Sceptical Preacher Says:

    […] What if church and state were not separated? The alternative history of America […]

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