Friday, July 11, 2008

Early Congress and Chaplains

According to the U.S. Library of Congress, our Founders came up with the idea of appointing chaplains of different denominations to avoid the impression that the Federal Government was favoring one branch of Christianity over another. The story goes:

On October 1, 1777, after Jacob Duché, Congress's first chaplain, defected to the British, Congress appointed joint chaplains: William White (1748-1836), Duché's successor at Christ Church, Philadelphia, and George Duffield (1732-1790), pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. By appointing chaplains of different denominations, Congress expressed a revolutionary egalitarianism in religion and its desire to prevent any single denomination from monopolizing government patronage. This policy was followed by the first Congress under the Constitution which on April 15, 1789, adopted a joint resolution requiring that the practice be continued.

See the Library of Congress Article

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