He continues: "Anglican observance was compulsory at Jamestown, and the Puritans of New England were explicitly hoping to found a New Jerusalem. But coerced belief is no belief at all; it is tyranny."
Meacham reminds us that the Founders "let the religious take their stand in the arena of politics and ideas on their own, and fight for their views on equal footing with all other interests. American public life is neither wholly secular nor wholly religious but an ever-fluid mix of the two. History suggests that trouble tends to come when one of these forces grows too powerful in proportion to the other."
He observes that "Prohibition was initially seen as a great moral victory, but its failure and ultimate repeal show that a movement should always be careful what it wishes for."
He cites columnist Cal Thomas, who was an early proponent of the Moral Majority: "No country can be truly 'Christian.' Only people can. God is above all nations, and, in fact, Isaiah says that 'All nations are to him a drop in the bucket and less than nothing.' Thinking back across the decades, Thomas recalls the hope -- and the failure. 'We are going through organizing like-minded people to 'return' America to a time of greater morality. Of course, this was to be done through politicians who had a difficult time imposing morality on themselves!'"