Separation of Church and State: A Founding Principle

Is the U.S. a Christian nation? On the campaign, John McCain asserted that it is. Barack Obama has insisted we are not. But what does the phrase mean?

There are two concepts to which the phrase “Christian nation” can be applied. The first concept is one in which the government itself directly upholds the cause of Christianity. Many Christian groups, most associated with conservatism, have endorsed that interpretation. For example, the Family Research Council has claimed that “Our founders expected that Christianity—and no other religion—would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship.” Dozens of conservative books and websites proclaim that the concept of a wall of separation between Church and State is a myth. Many conservative Christian leaders and organizations, based on that premise, have actively promoted a greater integration of Church and State, seeking to use government power to advance their agendas. Even such supposedly libertarian conservatives as Ron Paul have argued against the separation and in favor of a Christian connection to our government.

Like the FRC, Paul and others who subscribe to that first concept of a Christian nation invoke the Founding Fathers. According to these religious conservatives, these Founding Fathers, fellow pious Christians, wanted this nation to be explicitly Christian in character, and would be shocked at the secularization of the government.

While there are some few nuggets of truth in their claims, one must pan out a whole lot of silt to find them. The colonies were indeed largely established as explicitly religious communities—most of them one particular denomination (Pennsylvania being the exception). Deviation from that denomination’s religion was legally restricted, as Jews, Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, and other minority faiths sadly discovered. Many in the U.S. are inaccurately taught in school that the original European immigrants came seeking religious freedom. In truth, these immigrants typically came to establish their own religious dominions. The pilgrims were so fanatical in their religious oppression, The crown in England sent a letter to Massachusetts demanding that local authorities stop executing his subjects for heresy.

The founding of the United States of America was altogether different. Before I explain, I should point out a historical misconception. In political debate, we frequently try to present the Founding Fathers as some harmonious body. But these generalizations are far from accurate. The founding generation was as factious and fractious a bunch as any. The debates were intense, their relationships frequently bitter. Those who present a particular political point of view as that of “The Founders” are incorrectly ascribing some unanimity to this diverse bunch.

Some of the founding generation were certainly conventional and deeply devout Christians who wanted the nation to be expressly and innately Christian. Like Mike Huckabee, those men wanted to mold the nation’s governing charter to “God’s standard.” Many of these men were outraged when—and here is a key point—the Constitution did not once address God. Virtually all prior government codes and charters in the Western tradition had very unequivocally prevailed upon and recognized God. Yet in the final bargain the Constitution conspicuously declined any such invocation. There is nothing within the founding document which supports the conservative claims.

Christian conservatives like to take selected words of the critical founders out of context to give the impression that they share with today’s Christians a similar faith. Given the way founders are described in LDS circles, one might even believe them some sort of pre-Restoration LDS quorum. But research on the wider scope of their lives reveals that none of the men most prominent in the founding of the U.S. can accurately be associated with conventional Christianity. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison all scoffed at the idea of the divinity of Christ and other core theological principles of Christianity. Each was highly skeptical of the organizations which had risen up around those beliefs. Institutionalized religion was frequently a target of Franklin’s wit. Jefferson believed that it was religion—the hierarchical structures and the orthodoxy they enforce—which had perverted the simple and beautiful doctrines of Jesus by building up the superstitions of his divinity. Even Adams, more tolerant of religion as a necessary evil than the other two, caustically erupted numerous times over one religion or another in his private correspondence. George Washington was much more circumspect on religion than the others. He served on the vestry of his local Episcopal congregation, as men of his status in Virginia were expected to do. He frequently made reference to a higher power in his discourse, both civic and private—the private references often in the form of thundering expletives. But he rarely chose Christian phrases for God in public, preferring instead masonic or deist epithets. While he often attended services, it is well attested that he never took communion. Rarely did he make mention of Christ, let alone discuss Jesus as his Savior, despite the persistent urging of the Christian leaders of his era. Some call the faith of these men Theistic Rationalism. Whatever we may believe about their postmortal religious beliefs and affiliations (Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 229), during their earthly probation their beliefs can hardly be considered akin to the religious right—whether conventional Christian or conservative LDS.

The extent to which these men believed government should be interwoven with religion varied. Washington and Adams were agreeable to a general collaboration between Church and State. Washington felt religious institutions useful partners to government in establishing order in society, though he was indifferent to the doctrine of those institutions. Adams, despite his personal theological heterodoxy, believed Christian organizations and their doctrines should be supported by the government for their role in restraining the less savory aspects of our humanity (the cantankerous Adams derided most religion, but he was even more dubious about the prospects for humanity without it). Under these Presidents, the ones who made “so help me God” an unofficial addition to the Presidential oath of office, federally sponsored days of fasting and prayer were not uncommon, and the wall between Church and State was fairly permeable. Even so, Adams signed an official treaty which noted that “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion… (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, 1796, article 11).”

Things were decidedly different with the next two presidents, Jefferson and Madison. Unlike their predecessors, these two outraged the religious establishment by refusing to call for national days of fasting and prayer during their administrations, seeing such declarations as unconstitutional (see “Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Rev. Samuel Millar,” 01.23.1808). Jefferson was indeed very insistent that there be the “wall of separation” between Church and State. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, for which Jefferson had been the foremost architect, was to him such a crowning achievement that it was one of the three accomplishments he selected to list in his epitaph. As he put it

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17,1782).

Even more adamant about the necessity to separate Church and State, Madison’s original proposal for what became the First Amendment was stunning in its scope before being watered down in congressional compromise.

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner or on any pretext infringed (Amendments Offered in Congress by James Madison June 8, 1789)

Madison was not content to prevent government collusion with religion on a national level. States-rights proponents who list Jefferson and Madison as unqualified advocates of states supremacy over the federal government might be surprised to read the fifth amendment Madison submitted in his draft of amendments.

No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases (ibid, emphasis added)

(Those same “states rights” absolutists should also note that Madison’s original “Virginia Plan” which he presented to the Constitutional Convention maintained that the federal government needed a “negative” power—essentially a federal veto—over state legislatures; see “Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson,” 24.10.1787).

During his administration, Madison opposed the common practice of government chaplains, whether for the military, state-funded universities, or Congress. If individuals or groups wished spiritual guidance, he determined that they should seek it out on their own and if necessary, with their own funds. He fought the government practice of incorporating church properties. When Christian groups petitioned to have the U.S. postal service closed on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath, Madison actively opposed their efforts. He resisted any government involvement with private charities connected with religion.

Madison’s stated belief is most stark in defense of religious freedom and a separation of Church and State.

We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society [ie, government] and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance (Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments; emphasis added).

Exempt from its cognizance. Often when describing issues touching upon the relationship between Church and State, the phrase “religious tolerance” is used. But Madison’s vision is not one of a Christian-based government practicing kindly tolerance of other faiths. He well knew “tolerance” was arbitrary and “a source itself of discord and animosity, (“Letter from Madison to Edward Everett,” 03.19.1823).” Madison proposed a government completely blind to religion, one which does not even recognize the existence of religion.

These two men most closely associated with our founding documents, these icons of the early American Republicanism which conservatives invoke, strongly favored a disassociate between Church and State. In claiming that there is no historical foundation for this separation, conservatives show a profound ignorance and lack of understanding about the founding of our nation, the men who were instrumental in that founding, and the document which governs the nation.

Next:

Upcoming:

  • Separation of Church and State IV: Religious and Moral Legislation
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19 Responses to “Separation of Church and State: A Founding Principle”

  1. Free Religion News and Blogs » Separation of Church and State: A Founding Principle Says:

    […] Separation of Church and State: A Founding Principle By Derek Staffanson Even so, Adams signed an official treaty which noted that ?As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion? (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and … A Liberal Mormon – https://aliberalmormon.wordpress.com/ […]

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Derek,

    I’ve never read a more timely or useful discussion on this topic. Thank you for your research and your effective ability to communicate this history.

    The founders are used in vain too often in our political discourse by both right and left. People who do that should be called out on it more often.

  3. Aaron Orgill Says:

    More importantly, I want to pull my hair out when people do this because I really don’t believe we should worship what MIGHT have been the opinions of a bunch of guys who, in addition to having diverse opinions as you mentioned, lived in a very different time and had plenty of their own foibles and follies. I don’t really like to go too far in calling the Constitution “a living, breathing document,” because I believe it was and is inspired, but I can’t believe that they meant to do all of our thinking for us and keep it closed to improvement and changes in society.

  4. Mary Child Says:

    Well written and a timely point to make.

    The need for separation of Church and State has certainly been illustrated by the current prop 8/gay marriage debate. To reject prop 8 on religious grounds alone is socially irresponsible. The separation of Church and State is absolutely necessary if this government is to protect all its citizens equally.

  5. Ray Soller Says:

    The part of the statement,” Under these Presidents [Washington and Adams], the ones who made “so help me God” an unofficial addition to the Presidential oath of office , … the wall between Church and State was fairly permeable.” has no historical foundation when it comes to the presidential oath. The belief that early presidents added a religious codicil to their oath of office is not supported by any contemporary or firsthand historical evidence. Furthermore, contrary to the oft-repeated notion that claims “So help me God” has been repeated by all successive Presidents, this statement is also false. We have to wait until the 20th century before an elected president is known to have actually used this “unofficial” phrase, and it has only been since FDR’s inauguration on March 4, 1933 that “So help me God” has been repeated by all successive Presidents.

  6. Frank Staheli Says:

    As much as I abhor people saying this is a Christian nation, I am bothered by people who fear that Obama will take his oath of office on a Koran.

    We must be a moral people, but we don’t have to be a Christian people.

    This is what I like about Ron Paul. Although a religious man, he refuses to wear it as some sort of badge of honor. Some so-called Christian conservatives (Tom Delay, Ralph Reed, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Phil Graham, George Bush, etc.) are nothing of the sort. While other “conservatives” and establishment schmoozes cavort at the altar of the National Prayer Breakfast and the Evangelical Right, Ron Paul realizes that such mixing of politics and religion is unbecoming a nation conceived in liberty.

  7. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Yes, Frank, Paul is better than most conservatives. Yet his statements scoffing at the wall of separation and the value of government supporting Christianity suggests he still does not truly understand the nature or importance of freedom of conscience.

  8. Aaron Orgill Says:

    No, Derek, truly you are the only one who is enlightened enough to understand the nature and importance of freedom of conscience.

  9. Stacy Says:

    Wonderful, wonderful!

  10. Z Johnson Says:

    Derek, interesting thoughts, and I do not disagree with most of what you have said. There is a tendency to impress ones’ own beliefs on the Founding Fathers rather than take a more comprehensive view of their feelings on religion; hence, the tendency for Christian evangelicals to imply a religious fervency which is not well-represented, and a tendency for atheists to imply a “closet atheism” (Jefferson being a frequent target) despite a shortage of evidence to that point.

    I appreciate your reliance on the historic precedent, an approach all too lacking in modern discourse. The debate over Church and State seems to have been subverted in the continuing warfare between Christian Evangelicals and secular atheists, both sides asserting their rights under law–as they see them, of course–with little regard for the precedent. The precedent speaks strongly against the government maintaining a central role for any particular religious view, and arguably any broad religious view (e.g. Christianity.) At the same time, however, it would be difficult to conceive of the Founders as tolerating the use of the government as an enforcer of a strictly secular society, along the lines of the French state’s strict secularism. The government being no respecter of religions does not automatically translate into the government being the respecter of no religion.

    It would be easy to say that the Latter-Day Saints have “no dog in this fight” between the evangelicals and the “anti-theists” (as Christopher Hitchens likes to call himself); but that would be ignoring the negative consequences that would fall on religious minorities should either side prevail. Rather than picking a side–which only feeds into the partisanship and rancor–a better approach may be to rebuild the established precedents of a religion-conscious but not religiously-affiliated government.

    Granted, much of the debate focuses on school curriculum and on Federal grants to organizations with religious affilitions; but much of that debate would be better focused on whether the Federal government should have a role in determining school curriculum in the first place, or whether the government should be providing funds to organizations with religious affiliations (both of which I generally disagree with, but both of which the current and newly-elected Presidents generally agree with.)

  11. Derek Says:

    Z, I will elaborate in the second post in the series, but I will say for now that I do believe government should respect “no religion” just as much as any official religion, and that Madison was right: Government should have no cognizance–in which case, it would not be conscious of religion.

  12. Jason Hall, A New Libertarian Says:

    I’ve been reading up on Ron Paul and I must say that after reading your article above, I’m really convinced that we need a real change. It’s time we all stand up together for freedom.

    That’s why I am proud to say I voted for a third party candidate this year for the first time ever. It was Wes Upchurch, for Missouri’s Secretary of State.

    Next election everyone should do the same. We need people who are libertarians and Ron Paul republicans in office.

  13. Z Johnson Says:

    Derek, I may clarify just a bit on government being “conscious” of religion. It’s necessary for government to be aware of religion in order to assess the impact its policies may have on religions, to provide allowances that prevent government policies from becoming de facto restrictions on religion. One simple example of that is prison hygience and grooming standards–prison standards can be an implicit restriction on the exercise of religion by preventing religious practitioners from following their beliefs, e.g., by preventing Sikh men from having a full beard and wearing a full turban as required by their faith.

    But beyond that, government has to be cognizant of religion to prevent government policies from being used as weapons in religious or cultural warfare. One extensive example of this, albeit in the realm of race rather than religion, is the Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws were, on the face, racially neutral, and in fact would have been outright innocuous to someone not familiar with the situation–requiring a literacy test, for instance, does not seem particularly offensive. But the courts threw them out because, in context, they amounted to very effective, government-enforced racial discrimination. That was their intent, of course; and while intent is very difficult to measure, the effect is not so elusive. In equal opportunity law, the effect of a measure is often sufficient to render it discriminatory; and as such, government entities need to be at least aware of race and religion and the demographic structure of society.

    I do agree that “no religion” should be treated with the same respect as any religion. But as government policies without any consideration for impact on practicing members of religions can impose a burden on the members of those religions, enough such policies can amount to an effective government promotion of “no religion”, as it becomes the easiest of the alternatives.

  14. Larry Says:

    House Resolution 397 was submitted in May 2009 to address some of the issues Derek has discussed in this forum regarding the role of religion in U.S. Government:

    HRES 397 IH
    111th CONGRESS
    1st Session
    H. RES. 397
    Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of
    the first week in May as `America’s Spiritual Heritage Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.
    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
    May 4, 2009
    Mr. FORBES (for himself, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mr. AKIN, Mr. LATTA, Mr. JORDAN of Ohio, Mr.
    FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Ms. FOXX, Mr. GINGREY of Georgia, Mr. JONES, Mr. WOLF, Mr.
    TURNER, Mr. ADERHOLT, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. HOEKSTRA, Mr. YOUNG of Florida, Mr. WAMP, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr.
    DAVIS of Tennessee, and Mr. BISHOP of Utah) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and
    Government Reform
    RESOLUTION
    Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of
    the first week in May as `America’s Spiritual Heritage Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.
    Whereas religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and
    growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of the Federal Government from their very beginning;
    Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring `This is a religious people .
    . . From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation’;
    Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was
    the Bible;
    Whereas the first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of
    4 chapters of the Bible;
    Whereas Congress regularly attended church and Divine service together en masse;
    Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a
    practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;
    Whereas in 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the
    Creator (`All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of
    happiness’), the Lawgiver (`the laws of nature and nature’s God’), the Judge (`appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world’), and the
    Protector (`with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence’);
    Whereas upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July `ought to be commemorated as
    the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty’;
    Whereas 4 days after approving the Declaration, the Liberty Bell was rung;
    Whereas the Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: `Proclaim liberty throughout
    the land, to all the inhabitants thereof’;
    Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our
    churches,’ announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement’ and therefore ordered 20,000
    copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union’;
    Whereas in 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be `a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools’ and
    therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that
    `the United States in Congress assembled . . . recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States’;
    Whereas in 1782, Congress adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto
    `Annuit Coeptis,’ meaning `God has favored our undertakings,’ along with the eye of Providence in a triangle over a pyramid, the eye and
    the motto `allude to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause’;
    Whereas the 1783 Treaty of Paris that officially endied the Revolution and established America as an independent begins with the
    appellation `In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity’;
    Whereas in 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin declared, `God governs in the affairs of men. And if a
    sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? . . . Without His concurring aid,
    we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel’;
    Whereas the delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end
    of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with `the unanimous consent of the States
    present’ but they had done so `in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven’;
    Whereas James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of `the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been
    so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution,’ and George Washington viewed it as `little short of
    a miracle,’ and Benjamin Franklin believed that its writing had been `influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent,
    and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being’;
    Whereas, from 1787 to 1788, State conventions to ratify the United States Constitution not only began with prayer but even met in church
    buildings;
    Whereas in 1795, during construction of the Capitol, a practice was instituted whereby `public worship is now regularly administered at
    the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o’clock’;
    Whereas in 1789, the first Federal Congress, the Congress that framed the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, appropriated
    Federal funds to pay chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions, a practice that has continued to this day, with Congress not only
    funding its congressional chaplains but also the salaries and operations of more than 4,500 military chaplains;
    Whereas in 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching
    education, declaring that `Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools
    and the means of education shall forever be encouraged’;
    Whereas in 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a
    National day of prayer and thanksgiving, resulting in the first Federal official Thanksgiving proclamation that declared `it is the duty of all
    nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His
    protection and favor’;
    Whereas in 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard `all ships and
    vessels in the navy,’ with a sermon preached each Sunday;
    Whereas in 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine services to be held
    each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternately administered by the House and Senate chaplains;
    Whereas in 1853, Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a `duty . . . to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the
    House of Representatives’;
    Whereas by 1867, the church at the Capitol was the largest church in Washington, DC, with up to 2,000 people a week attending Sunday
    service in the Hall of the House;
    Whereas by 1815, over 2,000 official governmental calls to prayer had been issued at both the State and the Federal levels, with
    thousands more issued since 1815;
    Whereas in 1853, the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers `had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish
    to see us an irreligious people . . . they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the
    dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy’;
    Whereas in 1854, the United States House of Representatives declared `It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the
    whole structure rests . . . Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and
    permanence of free institutions’;
    Whereas in 1864, by law Congress added `In God We Trust’ to American coinage;
    Whereas in 1864, Congress passed an act authorizing each State to display statues of 2 of its heroes in the United States Capitol, resulting
    in numerous statues of noted Christian clergymen and leaders at the Capitol, including Gospel ministers such as the Revs. James A.
    Garfield, John Peter Muhlenberg, Jonathan Trumbull, Roger Williams, Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, and Martin Luther King Jr., Gospel
    theologians such as Roger Sherman, Catholic priests such as Father Damien, Jacques Marquette, Eusebio Kino, and Junipero Serra,
    Catholic nuns such as Mother Joseph, and numerous other religious leaders;
    Whereas in 1870, the Federal Government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme
    Court as `acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the
    courts for 2 centuries’) and Thanksgiving as official holidays;
    Whereas, beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal Gvernment printed and distributed The Life and Morals of
    Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained;
    Whereas in 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem, with its phrases such as `may the
    Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,’ and `this be our motto, `In God is our trust!’;
    Whereas in 1954, Congress by law added the phrase `one nation under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance;
    Whereas in 1954, a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an
    inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: `Preserve me, O God, for in
    Thee do I put my trust,’ and the phrase `This Nation Under God’ displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington;
    Whereas in 1956, Congress by law made `In God We Trust’ the National Motto, and added the phrase to American currency;
    Whereas the constitutions of each of the 50 States, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God;
    Whereas America’s first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including–
    (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath;
    (2) affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!’ to the oath;
    (3) inaugural prayers offered by the President;
    (4) religious content in the inaugural address;
    (5) civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgment of God;
    (6) inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and
    (7) clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President;
    Whereas President George Washington declared `Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality
    are indispensable supports’;
    Whereas President John Adams, one of only 2 signers of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, declared `As the safety and prosperity of
    nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this
    truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him’;
    Whereas President Jefferson not only attended Divine services at the Capitol throughout his presidency and had the Marine Band play at
    the services, but during his administration church services were also begun in the War Department and the Treasury Department, thus
    allowing worshippers on any given Sunday the choice to attend church at either the United States Capitol, the War Department, or the
    Treasury Department if they so desired;
    Whereas Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, provided Federal funding for
    missionary work among Indian tribes, and declared that religious schools would receive `the patronage of the government’;
    Whereas President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible `is the rock on which our Republic rests’;
    Whereas President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible `is the best gift God has given to men . . . But for it, we could not know right
    from wrong’
    Whereas President William McKinley declared that `Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers,
    Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His
    commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps’;
    Whereas President Teddy Roosevelt declared `The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort
    to better either our social or our political life’;
    Whereas President Woodrow Wilson declared that `America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which
    are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture’;
    Whereas President Herbert Hoover declared that `American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon . . . [the] fundamental philosophy
    announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago’;
    Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the Nation in a 6 minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also declared
    that `If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to
    destruction’;
    Whereas President Harry S. Truman declared that `The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The
    fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul’;
    Whereas President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, DC, that `You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation
    was established by men who believed in God. . . . You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand’;
    Whereas President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that `Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American
    way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic, expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of
    America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be’ in a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford;
    Whereas President John F. Kennedy declared that `The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God’;
    Whereas President Ronald Reagan, after noting `The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in
    shaping the history and character of this Nation and so many of its citizens, has . . . requested the President to designate the year 1983 as
    the `Year of the Bible’, officially declared 1983 as `The Year of the Bible’;
    Whereas every other President has similarly recognized the role of God and religious faith in the public life of America;
    Whereas all sessions of the United States Supreme Court begin with the Court’s Marshal announcing, `God save the United States and this
    honorable court’;
    Whereas a regular and integral part of official activities in the Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, was the inclusion
    of prayer by a minister of the Gospel;
    Whereas the United States Supreme Court has declared throughout the course of our Nation’s history that the United States is `a Christian
    country’, `a Christian nation’, `a Christian people’, `a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being’, and that `we
    cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion’;
    Whereas Justice John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and original Justice of the United States Supreme Court, urged `The most
    effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the
    Source from which they flow’;
    Whereas Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority
    of that law which is Divine . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants’;
    Whereas Justice William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Religion and morality . . . [are] necessary to good
    government, good order, and good laws’;
    Whereas President George Washington, who passed into law the first legal acts organizing the Federal judiciary, asked, `where is the
    security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths in the courts of justice?’;
    Whereas some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks in Washington, DC, include religious words, symbols, and
    imagery;
    Whereas in the United States Capitol the declaration `In God We Trust’ is prominently displayed in both the United States House and
    Senate Chambers;
    Whereas around the top of the walls in the House Chamber appear images of 23 great lawgivers from across the centuries, but Moses (the
    lawgiver, who–according to the Bible–originally received the law from God,) is the only lawgiver honored with a full face view, looking
    down on the proceedings of the House;
    Whereas religious artwork is found throughout the United States Capitol, including in the Rotunda where the prayer service of Christopher
    Columbus, the Baptism of Pocahontas, and the prayer and Bible study of the Pilgrims are all prominently displayed; in the Cox Corridor of
    the Capitol where the words `America! God shed His grace on thee’ are inscribed; at the east Senate entrance with the words `Annuit
    Coeptis’ which is Latin for `God has favored our undertakings’; and in numerous other locations;
    Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of
    the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S.
    Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of
    locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating;
    Whereas in the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgments carved on memorial blocks in
    the walls, including the phrases: `Holiness to the Lord’ (Exodus 28:26, 30:30, Isaiah 23:18, Zechariah 14:20), `Search the Scriptures’
    (John 5:39), `The memory of the just is blessed’ (Proverbs 10:7), `May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence’, and `In God We
    Trust’, but the Latin inscription Laus Deo meaning `Praise be to God’ is engraved on the monument’s capstone;
    Whereas of the 5 areas inside the Jefferson Memorial into which Jefferson’s words have been carved, 4 are God-centered, including
    Jefferson’s declaration that `God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a
    conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot
    sleep forever’;
    Whereas the Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that
    `we here highly resolve that . . . this nation under God . . . shall not perish from the earth’; `The Almighty has His own purposes. `Woe
    unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh’ (Matthew
    18:7), `as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said `the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’
    (Psalms 19:9), `one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain,
    and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it together’ (Dr. Martin Luther
    King’s speech, based on Isaiah 40:4-5);
    Whereas in the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz, and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on
    the walls are Bible verses, including: `The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not’ (John 1:5), `Wisdom is the
    principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7), `What doth the Lord require of thee, but
    to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God’ (Micah 6:8), and `The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the
    firmament showeth His handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1);
    Whereas numerous other of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both
    openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues;
    Whereas such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the State and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such
    acknowledgments exist, and
    Whereas the first week in May each year would be an appropriate week to designate as `America’s Spiritual Heritage Week’: Now,
    therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives–
    (1) affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history, including up to the
    current day;
    (2) recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation’s most
    valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America’s representative processes, legal systems, and societal
    structures;
    (3) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s
    public buildings and educational resources; and
    (4) expresses support for designation of a `America’s Spiritual Heritage Week’ every year for the appreciation of and education
    on America’s history of religious faith.
    END
    THOMAS Home

  15. Donald L. Barriger, Jr. Says:

    Until I recouperate from this shock that someone has finally found the courage and FAITH to come forward and speak from the heart..all I can say is “AMEN”.

  16. Natasha Says:

    This is a fascinating read for a Canadian. 🙂 A friend of mine, LDS and quite Liberal, directed me to your blog. I was hoping to find something in response to the prevalent notion in the church that socialism is evil, removing free agency from man. I’m trying to understand why the majority of LDS people vote Republican. And I unwittingly got into a discussion/debate on Twitter (certainly the worst place to attempt such a thing) about this. I’m prepping a blog post with my questions to these people and my points and was wondering if you had any thoughts on the matter you could email me or if you could direct me to something you may have written on the subject.

    What interests me most at this point is the idea that because church leaders have said that the Constitution was an inspired document that Mormons should vote for whatever party is more Constitutional and then I’m interested in how Mormons arrive to the Republican party as the answer to that question.

    Very interested in reading more of your blog. Love how you’ve laid things out methodically and written so clearly.

  17. Larry Says:

    I don’t think its accurate to say that it is a prevalent notion that most members of the LDS church think socialism is evil. My experiences of late indicate to me that this current generation of LDS people age 0-40 if anything favor a soft version of socialism with significantly more government control. American Mormons are at a stage that Saul Alinsky expained: “the masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values. They don’t know what will work but they do know that the prevailing system is self-defeating, frustrating, and hopeless. They won’t act for change but won’t strongly oppose those who do.”
    As to government, they will quietly take what they get.

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