Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soldiers' Pocket Bible, WWII

Continuing the series of posts I have done showing what a consistent role religion has played in the history of the USA, here is a description and photo from the Smithsonian Institute:

Religion has an essential role in military history, which is reflected in military material. Steel-covered New Testaments were popular keepsake gifts for soldiers going off to fight in World War II. Advertised in newspapers and magazines as protection from bullets, the small books were designed to be carried in the pocket over one's heart as both symbol and shield.

Read more on the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Monday, December 28, 2009

Official Bible of Alabama

To help rebut some of those who today say our nation has no religious or Judeo-Christian roots, consider that the state of Alabama actually has an official state Bible. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History:

"The official State Bible was purchased by the state in 1853. It is used to inaugurate Governors of Alabama. Governor John Winston was the first governor to be sworn in using this bible, on December 20, 1853. Every governor since 1853 has also used this Bible for their inauguration, though some like to place their personal Bible on top.

"The Bible was used in 1861 for Jefferson Davis to take his oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America.

"The Bible is now kept in the Alabama Department of Archives and History. When not in use during present-day inaugurations, it is on display in the department's third floor Nineteenth Century Gallery."

Read the quote on the Alabama Department of Archives and History website.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Walls Are Singing

Taking a tour of Washington, D.C. can be an educational experience for any number of reasons. One reason is to learn how much you see religious references in some of our most famous buildings and monuments. In walking through the Cox corridors of the U.S. Capitol, for example, you find these words:

"America! God shed his grace on Thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!" - Katharine Lee Bates

Prayer Room
"Annuit coeptis" (God has favored our undertakings)
"Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust." —Psalm 16:1

Senate Chamber
Over east doorway: "Annuit coeptis" (God has favored our undertakings)
Over south entrance: "In God we trust"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Atheist group attempts to block church from assembling

In Cambier Park in Naples, Florida, the Celebration Beach Church has been meeting most Sundays for eight years. Their attendance is usually about 1,000 - a figure many churches would be happy to reach. They lease the space in the public park for this purpose, and the city leases the park for other groups as well. Normally, that would be considered fine. After all, if they would lease the park for weekly meetings of a Frisbee group or some such, should they be expected to deny the use to a group that is religious?

Apparently some would expect them to do just that. The Freedom From Religion Foundation complains that the leases are granted by the City Council, and the council has members who are Christian. Suppose the Boy Scouts wanted to use the park. Would the council have to be free from having any scout leaders or former scouts? Sports teams?

It's an interesting concept. I might have thought it a GOOD thing that council members were involved in their community in various ways. But councils often have to consider issues affecting houses of worship. Should religious people be kept from serving on councils?

Let's not forget that the founders who ratified the Constitution approved of and attended regular religious worship services on federal property. This included the halls of Congress and other official buildings in the capitol. Should the Congress have been cleared of any members who attended religious services before approving such a thing? That would have made for a very small voting block indeed.

Watchdog groups can serve a valuable purpose. But this group's complaint seems totally beyond reason.

Read the article here:
Atheist group attempts to block church from assembling

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let's Keep Jesus Out of Christmas, Shall We?

In Taunton, Massachusetts, a 2nd-grade boy is in big trouble. His teacher asked the class to draw a picture that reminded them of Christmas. Well, this twisted kid drew a stick-figure picture of Jesus on the cross. He drew the eyes as X's to signify that Jesus had died on the cross.

So the school did what any reasonable school would do - they sent him home immediately and required him to undergo a psychological examination before he could return to school. (The teacher had been alarmed at the X's on the eyes, assuming that might indicate violent tendencies from this child.)

Here we have a national holiday. In this case, the teacher even recognized the holiday by asking for the drawings. But must Christian children divorce Jesus' life from Christmas? Granted the theme of his picture might have been more appropriate at Easter, but would the school's reaction have been different then? Not according to their justification as stated publicly. Maybe Christian children must be compelled to draw only pictures of Christmas trees (oh, but there is some connection to Martin Luther, so...). Or they could just draw Santa (oh, but he is actually SAINT Nicholas). Or the manger (but then we have the complexity of the whole virgin birth thing...). How about presents? That's probably safe.

Read more at the Taunton Gazette:
Taunton second-grader sent home over drawing of Jesus

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Afraid to Say Merry Christmas in USA, but Not Everywhere

Year after year these days we hear the controversy about saying "Merry Christmas" in the United States. But why? Yes, I know that not everyone in the USA is Christian, but it IS a national holiday after all. We light a National Christmas Tree every year in Washington, D.C., as well as an official White House Christmas Tree. But now we see little "news" segments on which stores allow (or require) employees to say "Merry Christmas" and which ones prefer (require) "Happy Holidays" instead. This is not the questionable Presidents' Day, where we in theory celebrate the birth of at least 2 presidents, and in some views ALL presidents. This holiday on December 25 each year is Christmas.

Our history is rich with Christian references, which you can read all over this blog. But I remember my trip to Japan some years ago. Keeping in mind that Japan is less than 1% Christian, I was a little surprised to learn that they say "Merry Christmas" in signs everywhere. Are they celebrating the birth of Christ or celebrating another chance to sell more merchandise? Whether it is the former of the latter reason, they are not shy about saying "Merry Christmas" and we should not be either.

Read a more extensive discussion of this on the following link:

From 0.7% Christian Japan, "MERRY CHRISTMAS" To All (It Is Said & Seen EVERYWHERE Here)

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Parades Allowed for Christmas (a National Holiday)

In Amelia, Ohio, the town had planned to hold a Christmas parade. Is that controversial? One might not think it's an odd thing to hold a parade for a national holiday, but one might be wrong. The town canceled the parade because they worried about possible lawsuits and protests. According to the news article, the cancellation was not due to actual lawsuits and protests, merely the worry that there might be some.

So I guess that means the groups that protest any public recognition of Christmas have one a battle. They don't have to lift a finger in this case; they don't have to spend a dime on legal expenses; their goal was met because of the intimidation factor created by numerous threats and lawsuits previously in other venues.

But it seems the parade will go on after all. A private group stepped to sponsor the parade. I don't have a problem with a private running it, but I certainly have a problem with a town not feeling able to hold a parade on a national holiday. If I lived there I might stop by City Hall on Friday, Dec. 25th to complain. But, wait... somehow I think no one will be working there on that holiday. So it's OK to close town offices but not to hold a parade.

This leads me to realize that we should also not have official celebrations in towns across the USA for Presidents' Day. After all, the two birthdays combined to make this holiday originally were for men who regularly invoked God during official events. There must be a problem with that holiday. And how about St. Patrick's Day parades? Boston better cancel theirs so no one things the city is establishing a religion by celebrating for a SAINT.

Read more about the Ohio story here:
Christmas parade canceled in Ohio back on

Sunday, December 20, 2009

MSU Criticized for Prayer Service

On October 16 of this year Mississippi State University installed a new president. The day's schedule of events included a prayer service at the beginning. An atheist blogger is complaining about a state university holding a prayer service. To quote the blog: "To be clear, Mississippi State University is violating the separation of church and state by making prayer services an official part of their events. They are a state-sponsored institution and have no business promoting religion."

Is it promoting religion to hold a service if a large number of those involved would like to have one? Or is that just recognizing the people's desire? And clearly the prayer service would not in any way be required, even as a convenience of those wishing to attend the day's events. Here is the published schedule:

  • 7:30-8:15 a.m. - Prayer Service at the Chapel of Memories
  • 9-11 a.m. - Reception in the Foster Ballroom of the Colvard Student Union
  • 12 noon - Investiture Ceremony begins with Processional across the Drill Field
One could easily skip the service (sleep in a little) and start at the reception.

But what about the man who is being quoted when "separation of church and state" is raised? From a previous post on my blog:
This same man, Thomas Jefferson, founded the University of Virginia in 1819 (years after the First Amendment was ratified). He provided in his regulations for the University of Virginia that the main rotunda be used for religious worship. And he proposed that all University of Virginia students be required to study as a matter of ethics "the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all relations within morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer."

So we the man who has become famous in the last 60 years because of his "separation" phrase have objected to an optional prayer service that was not even physically connected to any other event?

Read the blog post here:
Mississippi State University Violates Church-State Separation

Friday, December 18, 2009

U.S. Government Printing Office Produces Worship Book

Many today think that our nation was founded on the premise that the federal government may have no association with religion. Actually, that is a fairly recent invention of the courts and does not reflect the manner in which our founders behaved.

Consider that during World War II the United States Government Printing Office printed a book for the use of our troops that they thought would be useful. It was the "Song and Service Book for Ship and Field, Army and Navy." According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, "The Song and Service Book for Ship and Field, Army and Navy, edited by Ivan Loveridge Bennett, features prayers, hymns and patriotic songs used in various military ceremonies and religious services."

Read more on the Smithsonian website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jefferson and Madison: The Sabbath Law (No Kidding)

There are quotes floating around from both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that might seem to prove they wanted the government to strongly accommodate religion, and you can find quotes that seem to say they would not want such a thing. Part of this is due to the understanding of "religion" in the early days of our country. Today we use it to mean any sort of religion (including, in some definitions, secularism and atheism). But back then they generally were referring to Christianity.

There is also general misunderstanding about the difference between the federal government and the various state governments. The founders wanted the federal government to stay out of the business of the states as much as possible. So when the First Amendment was written, prohibiting Congress from establishing any law respecting an establishment of religion, the founders were limiting the federal government, knowing full well that many states had indeed established an official religion. The new Constitution did nothing to interfere with the state religions.

Why do we hear so much from the words of Jefferson and Madison? Good question. They were only 2 of the founders, but many other contributed. Also, Jefferson was in France when the Constitution was written. But they are both truly outstanding men in our history. Jefferson was the wordsmith for our Declaration of Independence and Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution. So did they really want religion kept far from government? Would they have disapproved of displaying the Ten Commandments in/on/around a public building?

Or let's go way out on a limb. Would these men have approved of a "sabbath law" that provided for a fine if a man was caught working on the Sabbath? Actually, yes, they would. In fact, they were both from Virginia and were the two men mainly responsible for the Virginia Sabbath Law in 1786. It was Bill No. 84 and said:

"If any person on Sunday shall himself be found labouring at his own or any other trade or calling, or shall employ his apprentices, servants or slaves in labour, or other business, except it be in the ordinary household offices of daily necessity, or other work of necessity or charity, he shall forfeit the sum of ten shillings for every such offence, deeming every apprentice, servant, or slave so employed, and every day he shall be so employed as constituting a distinct offence." (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 555)

Read more at the following links:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Most Popular Book in Colonial America? The Bible

We hear how our Founders were not very religious people. We hear there is not really much of a Judeo-Christian heritage in the USA. But in an article on the National Archives' Exhibits, they cover the life of Benjamin Franklin. One aspect of Franklin that is famous is his combination of wit and wisdom. He published many of these thoughts in Poor Richard's Almanac. The archives says this:

He published The Pennsylvania Gazette (1730-48), which had been founded by another man in 1728, but his most successful literary venture was the annual Poor Richard 's Almanac (1733-58). It won a popularity in the colonies second only to the Bible, and its fame eventually spread to Europe.

So, while the Almanac was a very popular book, it was only 2nd in the heart of the colonists then. The MOST popular book was the Bible.

Read the article on the National Archives site: The Founding Fathers: Pennsylvania

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Massachusetts Town outlaws Merry Christmas Sign

The Fire Department in North Andover, MA, has put up a "Merry Christmas" sign for the last 50 years. But now the town leaders have decided that it is not correct to wish people a Merry [U.S.National Holiday that falls on Dec. 25 every year]. The also decided a local rabbi could not put up a menorah during the eight days of Hanukkah. Of course, residents know we have these holidays, but there is no need to let people recognize them and try to spread some good will around.

One might also might want to try to forget the state's constitution:

Massachusetts Bill of Rights, Part the First
"It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religion profession of sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship...."

And we had really better forget that those Europeans who first settled in MA wrote our first official document of governance, the Mayflower Compact. In so doing they declared they were here for the "glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith."

The Compact says:

"In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c. Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick; for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye .11. of November, in ye year of the raigne of our soveraigne lord King James of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom .1620."

Read more about the North Andover story here:

The Eagle-Tribune Online

Swearing in on Bible: Not Just for Presidents

You have heard the claims that there is no religious heritage in this country, or specifically no Judeo-Christian history to speak of. The blog you are now reading has countless examples of our religious roots. I have pointed out how almost every President of the United States was sworn in with his hand on the Holy Bible.

But it's not just that highly-visible ceremony where you will find a Bible. Consider the following short article from the National Archives. It shows the Archivist Wayne C. Grover being sworn in with the use of a Bible. Here is the description:

Wayne C. Grover, third Archivist of the United States, served as Archivist from 1948 to November 6, 1965. Here he is being sworn in as Archivist by Harold Stephens, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of D.C. on June 4, 1948. Senator Arthur Watkins (Utah) stands at far left, Mrs. Grover is holding the Bible, and Representative Walter K. Granger (Utah) stands at right.  Grover’s children are Mary, Jane, and Ann. By July the National Archives lost its independence as it became part of the newly created General Services Administration and was called the National Archives and Records Service.

Read the article here

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swearing in Using a Bible (It Started with George Washington)

The U.S. National Archives is a tremendous repository of historical information. If you are interested in seeing if America really had no Christian roots, it doesn't take too long in searching the Archives to learn otherwise. Consider this section from the Archives' Prologue magazine:

The Bible— From Coronations to Inaugurations

One element of the swearing-in ceremony not required by the Constitution is the ritual of the President placing his left hand on the Bible and raising his right hand toward heaven. The practice of taking oaths upon Bibles stemmed from English and American colonial history. Bibles were used in the coronations of Britain's kings and queens and in the administration of oaths in civil and ecclesiastical courts.

Just before George Washington's swearing-in on the balcony at the Federal Hall in New York City, Chief Justice of the New York state judiciary, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, who would administer the oath, raised the question, "would legitimacy be lacking if the oath was administered without a Bible?" A search ensued. When no Bible could be found in the building, the inquiry spread to St. John's Masonic Lodge No. 1, a few blocks away on Wall Street. A Bible secured, the ceremony proceeded as scheduled

Read the whole article in the U.S. Archives Prologue Magazine, Winter 2000, Vol. 32, No. 4

Sunday, December 6, 2009

News Item: ACLU Harassment of Santa Rosa School District Continues

The ACLU is apparently offended by some of the actions of teachers and students in the Santa Rosa County School District (Florida). This fight could have ramifications on freedom of religion (remember that "freedom of religion" was used many times by Thomas Jefferson in describing the importance of the First Amendment, but he used the phrase "separation of church in state" in only one commonly-quoted letter). Fortunately for Santa Rosa County, the Liberty Counsel is helping to defend the school district.

Some of the alleged ACLU actions are interesting reading. Please check out the article here:

Liberty Counsel Goes to Court Today Against the ACLU

Friday, December 4, 2009

Church Was Huge Part of Life in 19th-Century America

Some voices today like to downplay any role of religion in America's history. Yet there is much that is undeniably religious in the lives of our Founders and the generations after them. Here is a snippet from the U.S. National Archives:

"Readers will be able to consider the primary role that Christianity assumed in the life of frontier villages and families, including that of Jane Addams, and to investigate the influence of American Protestantism during the last half of the 19th century. Much of the activity associated with village life centered on churches, their activities, and the moral values associated with their religious teachings. It will also be possible to investigate life in a small, developing, frontier village, and to learn of the families with which the Addams family and Jane interacted, the village organizations, institutions, and activities that were available, and the community s relationship to the surrounding area with its larger communities, businesses, and farmlands."

From the National Archives publication Annotation, by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Vol. 31.2, June 2003, starting on page 7.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Music and Government and Religion - Shhhhh, Don't Tell the ACLU

Music has been used for a long, long time as part of religious worship. Even the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible is based on songs, although the melodies have long since been lost. So the following should be no surprise.

(The paragraph below is fictitious, but please imagine the events described):

The Salvation Army is well-known for its music programs. There are many excellent S.A. bands around the world. On November 8, 2009, the S.A. Band performed at an annual worship service to honor member of its service who have died in the last year. They perform some excellent and appropriate music, including Variations on an Advent Hymn, and Voluntary on "Old Hundredth." The event was open to the public at an enormous temple and national tourist attraction.

(Setting the record straight):

The paragraph above is only fiction because of the name of the group and venue, but it's not hard to imagine such a service. And the event seems like an appropriate recognition, doesn't it? But that event was actually a service in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Marine Corps Annual Worship Service. The group performing was The U.S. Marine Band ("The President's Own"). And the venue was Washington's National Cathedral.

The Marine Band is a tax-funded ensemble of the federal government. Yet those who tell us we must have strict separation of church and state (one directional only, of course) would say this can't happen. Yet the Marine Band has been involved in religious service since the earliest days of the USA (since around the time the Constitution was written). By using the Band the government is not creating a national religion, much less forcing others to follow it. They are simply recognizing a very large part of the U.S. population and their beliefs and needs. They are honoring the fallen comrades in a meaningful way.

(Hold on to your hats - the next two are real, too!):

Then in just a few days The United States Marine Band will participate in the annual Lighting of the National Christmas Tree - yes, a "Christmas tree," not a "holiday tree." The date is Dec. 3, and it takes place on the Ellipse, south of the White House. This is the 86th year of the lighting of our national Christmas tree. (The ceremony was formerly known as the Pageant of Peace.) President Obama will take part.

On Dec. 6 The Marine Band (The President's Own) will perform an annual sing-a-long at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia. Program will include traditional Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs.

Given the history of our country, these are appropriate events. Look back at posts on this blog about the traditions that started in the early days of the United States and you will see what I mean.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Treaty of Tripoli: What It Means, What It Doesn't

Recently a reader of this blog commented on a post and made a good point, one that caused me to correct and clarify wording in the post. But then he added an phrase from the Treaty of Tripoli: "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion"

You may notice there is no period at the end of the paragraph above, nor was there one at the end of the quote. To provide context, a more complete quote would have been: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as [America has] never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The Barbary pirates were capturing ships of other nations, supposedly as "payback" for the past transgressions of Christians against Muslims. The intent was to assure them that we were not about to enter into a religious war against them.

As I have stated before on this blog many times, the federal government is prohibited from establishing an official national religion or interfering with freedom of religion via the two religion clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. HOWEVER, at the time the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified, several of our states DID have official state (Christian) religions. But the states were not able to declare war on a Muslim nation; only the federal government could to that, and the federal government is not officially Christian. American citizens are not required to worship any particular religion or any religion at all. Even tough our history has a strong Christian component, our armies are not sent out to force adherence to Christianity.

The Treaty of Tripoli has been used in many places on the Internet to say that we have no Christian roots and that our founders did not think of us as Christian. Reading our first official document of governance, the Mayflower Compact, or many of the colonies' charters, one can not conclude that our nation has no Christian roots.

Read more on this issue from

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Library of Congress - Recognition of God in Thanksgiving Proclamations

Many today try to sell the idea that we as a nation have very little religious tradition. However, that goes against what you find in so many sources. While you might discount a source created by a Christian or conservative partisan, you might consider the following text, which is from the Library of Congress. It is supporting text from a bill that passed the House in 2004 (as far as I can tell from the Thomas record, the Senate has taken no action). It makes a dandy summary of a thread in our history.


On September 25, 1789, the First Congress unanimously approved a resolution calling on President George Washington to proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving for the people of the United States by declaring, `a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a constitution of government for their safety and happiness.' See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 101 (1985) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).

In Washington's Proclamation of a Day of National Thanksgiving, he wrote that 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. . . .' 30 The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, at 427 (John C. Fitzpatrick ed., Gov't Printing Office 1939). His proclamation of a day of thanksgiving, which we still celebrate, is an elegant national prayer, requested by the very Congress that drafted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment:

Whereas 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, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me `to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceable to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.' Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late ware, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

30 The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, at 427-28 (John C. Fitzpatrick ed., Gov't Printing Office 1939).

John Adams declared in 1799, `As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the Accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of heart and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities . . . I do hereby recommend . . . to be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer. . . .' 9 The Works of John Adams 172 (Charles F. Adams ed., 1850-56) (reprint by Books for Librarians Press, 1969).

President James Madison, on July 9, 1812, proclaimed that the third Thursday in August `be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes . . .' 2 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 498 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

President James Madison, on March 4, 1815 declared `a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace. No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.' 2 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 546 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Andrew Johnson proclaimed `on the occasion of the obsequies of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States' that `a special period be assigned for again humbling ourselves before Almighty God. . . .' 8 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 3504 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Proclamation of April 25, 1865).

President Woodrow Wilson, on October 19, 1917, proclaimed that `Whereas, the Congress of the United States, . . . requested me to set apart by official proclamation a day upon which our people should be called upon to offer concerted prayer to Almighty God for His divine aid . . . And, Whereas, it behooves a great free people, nurtured as we have been in eternal principles of justice and of right, a nation which has sought from the earliest days of its existence to be obedient to the divine teachings which have inspired it in the exercise of its liberties, to turn always to the supreme Master and cast themselves in faith at His feet, praying for His aid and succor . . .' 17 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 8377 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Proclamation of Oct. 19, 1917).

President Roosevelt's 1944 Thanksgiving Proclamation declared: `[I]t is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our Allies, to His children in other land . . . To the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas.' Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 675 n.3 (1984) (citing Proclamation No. 2629, 9 Fed. Reg. 13,099 (1944)).

Official announcements proclaiming Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other national holidays are, to this day, made in religious terms. President Bush, in his 2002 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, stated, `We also thank God for the blessings of freedom and prosperity; and, with gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the importance of faith in our lives.' Weekly Compilation of Presidential Papers, Vol. 38, No. 47, at 2072 (November 25, 2002).

Recognition of God in the Presidential Oath of Office and Inaugural Addresses

Every President of the United States, since Washington, has taken the Oath of Office with his hand placed upon the Bible. See Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 436 (1962). Every President has ended his Oath with, `So help me, God.' Id. at 436.

Every President, without exception, has acknowledged God upon entering office:

George Washington, 1st, `that Almighty Being who rules over the universe . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 3 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Adams, 2nd, `that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 28 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd, `And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.' Speeches of the American Presidents 40 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Madison, 4th, `that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.' Speeches of the American Presidents 51 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Monroe, 5th, `with a firm reliance on the protection of Almighty God . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 69 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Quincy Adams, 6th, `knowing that `except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain' with fervent supplications for His favor. . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 60 (1989).

Andrew Jackson, 7th, `my most fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom I now stand . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 95 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Martin Van Buren, 8th, `the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all.' Speeches of the American Presidents 108 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

William Henry Harrison, 9th, `the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 116 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Tyler, 10th, `the all-wise and all-powerful Being who made me . . .' 4 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1890 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

James Polk, 11th, `I fervently invoke the aid of that Almighty Ruler of the Universe in whose hands are the destinies of nations and of men . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 100 (1989).

Zachary Taylor, 12th, `to which the goodness of Divine Providence has conducted our common country.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 114 (1989).

Millard Fillmore, 13th, `I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God to remove from this life Zachary Taylor . . .' Philip Kunhardt, Jr., The American President 218-223 (Riverhead Books 1999); `I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations . . .' 6 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 2600 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Special Message, July 10, 1850).

Franklin Pierce, 14th, `there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 153 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Buchanan, 15th, `In entering upon this great office I must humbly invoke the God of our fathers . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 125 (1989).

Abraham Lincoln, 16th, `Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.' Speeches of the American Presidents 181 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Andrew Johnson, 17th, `Duties have been mine; consequences are God's.' 8 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 3504 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th, `I ask the prayers of the nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.' Speeches of the American Presidents 225 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th, `Looking for the guidance of that Divine Hand by which the destinies of nations and individuals are shaped . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 159 (1989).

James Garfield, 20th, `They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 251 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Chester Arthur, 21st, `I assume the trust imposed by the Constitution, relying for aid on divine guidance . . .' 10 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 4621 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Grover Cleveland, 22nd, `And let us not trust to human effort alone, but humbly acknowledging the power and goodness of Almighty God, who presides over the destiny of nations. . . ..' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 173 (1989).

Benjamin Harrison, 23rd, `invoke and confidently expect the favor and help of Almighty God, that He will give to me wisdom . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 277 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Grover Cleveland, 24th, `I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people, and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek His powerful aid.' Speeches of the American Presidents 274 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

William McKinley, 25th, `Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 291 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th, `with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 324 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Howard Taft, 27th, `. . . support of my fellow citizens and the aid of the Almighty God in the discharge of my responsible duties.' Speeches of the American Presidents 362 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Woodrow Wilson, 28th, `I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking men, to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them, if they will but counsel and sustain me!' Speeches of the American Presidents 380 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Warren G. Harding, 29th, `that passage of Holy Writ wherein it is asked: `What doth the Lord require of thee . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 420 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Calvin Coolidge, 30th, `[America] cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 433 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988). Calvin Coolidge also stated, `Our government rests upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty, and for the rights of mankind. Unless the people believe in these principles, they cannot believe in our Government.' `Coolidge Declares Religion Our Basis,' N.Y. Times, Oct. 16, 1924 (October 15, 1924, address in connection with the unveiling of an equestrian statue of Francis Asbury.)

Herbert Hoover, 31st, `I ask the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have called me.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 267 (1989). Also according to President Hoover, `Our Founding Fathers did not invent the priceless boon of individual freedom and respect for the dignity of men. That great gift to mankind sprang from the Creator and not from governments.' `The Protection of Freedom,' Address by Herbert Hoover, West Branch, Iowa, Aug. 10, 1954.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd, `In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 489 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Harry S. Truman, 33rd, `all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 286 (1989).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th, `At such a time in history, we, who are free, must proclaim anew our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws. This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man's inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight! . . . The enemies of this faith know no god but force, no devotion but its use. . . . Whatever defies them, they torture, especially the truth. Here, then, is joined no pallid argument between slightly differing philosophies. This conflict strikes directly at the faith of our fathers and the lives of our sons. . . . This is the work that awaits us all, to be done with bravery, with charity--and with prayer to Almighty God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 566, 568 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John F. Kennedy, 35th, `the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 604 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th, `We have been allowed by Him to seek greatness with the sweat of our hands and the strength of our spirit. . . . [W]e learned in hardship . . . that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 313 (1989).

Richard M. Nixon, 37th, `as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.' Speeches of the American Presidents 662 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Gerald Ford, 38th, `to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 698 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Jimmy Carter, 39th, `what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 328 (1989).

Ronald Reagan, 40th, `We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free.' Speeches of the American Presidents 749 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988). 133


[Footnote 133: When awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Reagan stated, `History comes and goes, but principles endure and ensure future generations to defend liberty--not a gift of government, but a blessing from our Creator.' `For the Record,' The Washington Post (January 15, 1993) at A22.]

George Bush, 41st, `Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 346 (1989).

Bill Clinton, 42nd, `with God's help, we must answer the call.' Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, William J. Clinton, 1993, Book 1, at 3 (Gov't Printing Office 1994).

George W. Bush, 43rd, `We are not this story's Author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. . . . God bless you all, and God bless America.' Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, George W. Bush, 2001, Book 1, at 3 (Gov't Printing Office 2003).

See the page here:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day History

As with most holidays in this society, Thanksgiving has become a day where commercial interests almost overwhelm the holiday's true meaning (think "Black Friday"). But historically, Thanksgiving has strong religious roots.

It is generally believed that the first Thanksgiving started in the Plymouth Colony (in Massachusetts). Governor Bradford and the colonists were building a relationship with the Indians (Native Americans), who were helping them learn to manage local crops. The first year of this relationship (1621) was so productive that the Governor declared a day of thanksgiving, to be shared by colonists and Indians. According to the website of the Plymouth Plantation: "Edward Winslow’s final comment about the harvest of 1621, is a sentiment shared by many Americans on Thanksgiving Day: And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The next year saw the colony's resources stretched thin. The following year (1623) was a dry one and the crops were in trouble. The Governor ordered a "Day of Fasting and Prayer" and soon afterward the rains fell. As a way of thanking God, November 29 that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day was recognized inconsistently by Presidents until Abraham Lincoln. From his presidency onward, every President of the United States has signed a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. It was signed on October 3, 1863, and said:

"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

"In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed."

Overview from Plymouth Plantation Site

Overview from

Lincoln's Proclamation from National Park Service Site

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Religion in the Military - Confederate Army and Navy Prayer Book

Here is another little piece of trivia to refute some of those who continue to say that religion had very little place in our country's history. Those voices often claim that the religious history of American is very overblown by the "religious right" in recent times.

In the Smithsonian's American History museum we find that there was on official Confederate Prayer Book. The caption calls it "The Army and Navy Prayer Book of the Confederate States, printed in Richmond in 1865."

Read the entire citation here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Colorado's Mountain of the Holy Cross

I'm sure you have heard some say that our country has very little religious influence in its history. But it is hard to look at historic exhibits in places like the Smithsonian Institute and believe that our citizens didn't have a strong thread of Judeo-Christian thought.

Look at a famous mountain in Colorado. This is part of a collection in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Description and photo below courtesy of the Smithsonian's website. Notice that the mountain was named for the Holy Cross of Jesus. Why didn't these "non-religious" people call it the Mountain of the Giant T?

...One such photographer was William Henry Jackson, a member of the United States Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories from 1870 to 1878. The photographs that Jackson brought back to the East helped to introduce much of the population to the existence and phenomena of the western landscape, and helped to shape public perception as well as governmental policies surrounding the region.

One of Jackson's most enduring and iconic images is his photograph of the 14,000-foot Mountain of the Holy Cross, located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The mountain was already a legend when Jackson photographed it, because of the snow-filled cross that appeared on its eastern face when weather conditions permitted. His struggle to actually locate and get the photograph—including an arduous trek up a mountainside carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment without the benefit of pack animals, and a night spent exposed to the high altitude air in order to be in the right place when the sun rose—only added to the status of the mountain after the image was published.

Read the whole story on the Smithsonian website.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Prayer at Meetings in Columbia, SC

There was recently an article about the issue of starting city council meetings with prayer in Columbia City, South Carolina. If you are a reader of this blog or have watched controversies over prayer in various news outlets, you can probably imagine the issues raised by the opponents. In common with most of these cases is that mention of our so-called "separation of church and state." That phrase is supposed to describe the meaning of the First Amendment's religious establish clause.

However, a brief look back at the actions of the very founders who created/ratified the First Amendment reveal that they did NOT interpret it that way? Did they not know what they wrote? Or do current courts misinterpret the words?

The founders who created this document also started the official meetings with prayer. In some cases the prayer stretched for hours. In those days, prayers in these settings were almost certainly Christian. Today we try to more sensitive to other religions, and many like to use prayers that are so exclusive. In any case, being sensitive is not mandated by the Constitution. The Congress at that time wrote a document that would keep the Federal government from establishing an official religion that others are forced to follow. Some interpret the 14th Amendment to require the same of state governments. It is difficult to image that the Constitution or Amendments address a city from establishing a religion. And it is a longer reach to think that opening a meeting with [even a] Christian prayer is establishing an official religion. Surely the founders did not think a Christian prayer in the U.S. Congress was an establishment of religion. And the city council of any city should not think so either.

Read the article here (links do not always work on this site - you may need to do a site search for "prayer" to find it):

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is a Cross Permissible on a Mountain? In a Cemetery?

The cross has become a focus of political and legal discussion in the last few decades. There is the case currently before the Supreme Court about the cross in the Mojave Desert, brought by the ACLU. That same organization earlier complained about a cross in a county seal, despite the fact that the symbol (only one part of a complex seal) represents 18th-century missions that are an inherent part of the county's history.

Here is a good article from the L.A. Times discussing the issue:

The many meanings of a cross

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can Federal Government Grant Land to Religious School?

In Cheboygan, Michigan, the U.S. Coast Guard has been renting some of its property to the Cornerstone Christian School. A Michigan representative (Bart Stupak) has proposed a bill that would transfer the property to the school for no cost. The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is opposing that measure. One reason they give is the so-called "separation of church and state" of the U.S. Constitution. They also cite current federal law regarding disposal of property.

AU's point may be reasonable in some ways. They don't mention the specific federal law about property that they believe this violates, but that could be a very important point. And the separation argument could be valid in some cases.

But let's look at the separation argument alone, since that is the main thrust of this blog. Suppose federal agencies occasionally give away property to various non-profit's. If that is so, then wouldn't disallowing such an action to one group solely because they are Christian be a lot like discrimination against religion? That would violate the Constitution. And my question is not entire out of my imagination. In other types of cases religion has been the only reason for a negative response to a group. Off the top of me head it seems like the most common type of discrimination is when a school denies use of facilities to a religious group. The Supreme Court has ruled that if facilities are generally available to the public, they may not be withheld from a religious group.

This is mostly a point of discussion. There may be ample reasons that the representative's bill is problematic. Depending on the arguments made, I might even agree with them. But if the main thrust of the objection is "separation" and if the government is in the habit of giving away property it does not need, then I would have an objection to excluding a Christian group from being a recipient.

Read more here:
Americans United Opposes Proposed Congressional Land Grant to Religious School in Michigan

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James Madison Speaks on the Bill of Rights

James Madison is often called the Father of the Constitution because we was the chief craftsman of its words. Certainly he must have had a clear understanding of the intentions of the other Founding Fathers.

We debate today what was meant by Jefferson when he used to phrase "separation of church and state" to refer to the First Amendment of the Constitution (several years after the Amendments were ratified). I have pointed out that Jefferson used the phrase "freedom of religion" most times when speaking of the importance of the First Amendment. Now let's look at Madison's thoughts during the debate on the Bill of Rights. The following is from an article on the National Archives site titled "Religion and the Founding Fathers." (Boldface added for emphasis.)

Many Americans agreed with the freemen of Paxton, Massachusetts, that the Constitution, by its failure to explicitly guarantee the freedom of religion, was "Subversive of Liberty and Extreamly dangerous to the Civil and Religious rights of the People." Speaking for Antifederalists, Patrick Henry argued in the Virginia ratifying Convention that the "sacred and lovely thing Religion, ought not to rest on the ingenuity of logical deduction." Without an explicit protection, religion "will be prostituted to the lowest purposes of human policy." Federalists, however, argued that the Constitution would create a Federal government of strictly enumerated powers that would never be capable of violating religious liberty. According to James Madison in the Virginia Convention, there was "not a shadow of right in the General Government to intermeddle with religion-- Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation." Furthermore, with the "multiplicity of sects" throughout America, Madison asserted that no one sect "could oppress and persecute the rest."

That seems clearer that the vague metaphor "separation of church and state" The government is not able to meddle ("intermeddle") with religion in any way. And he says in the last sentence above that the government may not aid one sect in oppressing the rest. That's what Jefferson meant by "separation of church and state" and is also in keeping with the idea of "freedom of religion."

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nativity Scene in Illinois State Capitol?

Each year there are stories of religious displays torn down or moved from public land. In Illinois' State Capitol Rotunda, this year there will be a Nativity Scene (Creche) as in past years. Some will again argue against the practice because of the so-called "separation of church and state."

The separation metaphor comes into use here because Thomas Jefferson used the words in a letter once. However, he did not intend for that metaphor to stand as a guide to implementing the First Amendment. This is obvious from his actions. And he certainly would not have approved of a Supreme Court using it as the basis for a decision limiting religious freedom. Jefferson used the term "freedom of religion" much more often in speaking of the First Amendment.

This same man, Thomas Jefferson, founded the University of Virginia in 1819 (years after the First Amendment was ratified). He provided in his regulations for the University of Virginia that the main rotunda be used for religious worship. And he proposed that all University of Virginia students be required to study as a matter of ethics "the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all relations within morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer."

Christmas is a national holiday, and Christian holidays are a part of our history and tradition. Even the story of another national holiday, Thanksgiving, has Christian themes, although those are often left out of textbooks today.

The First Amendment specifically prohibits Congress from making a law establishing a national religion. Some believe that prohibition applies to the states because of later Constitutional amendments. Even so, allowing a creche to be displayed in the capitol rotunda hardy has the impact of a state law forcing citizens to worship. Taxpayers are not paying for the creche - it is provided by private funds - so one can't even call this state support of religion.

Read more on this event here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans' Day - Hooray for Hollywood (of Days Gone By)

Keeping in mind that Nov. 11 is Veterans' Day, it seems like a good time to mention some of our Hollywood personalities who are veterans. There aren't many instances (in my limited research) where famous actors joined the military to fight in the Vietnam War or the Gulf War(s). But in World War II (and even Korea) things were different. Here is a partial list:

Alec Guinness (Doctor Zhivago, Star Wars)
Operated landing craft on D-Day for the British Royal Navy.

Alex Haley (author of Roots)
Served in U.S. Coast Guard from 1939-59. Earned Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal. After WWII, became journalist for USCG, and became first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard.

Arthur Lake (Topper, Blondie movies)
U.S. Coast Guard during WWII

Brian Keith (Parent Trap, With Six You Get Eggroll)
U.S. Marine, rear gunner in Pacific Theater on Rabal.

Charlton Heston (10 Commandments, Ben Hur)
Served in Army Air Force from 1944 to 1947. Was radio-gunner in the Aleutian Islands.

Charles Bronson (Apache, The Magnificent Seven)
Tail gunner in Army Air Corps, flying out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

Charles Durning (The Sting, Evening Shade)
U.S. Army Ranger at Normandy. Earned Silver Star and Purple Heart

Clark Gable (Gone with the Wind, It happened One Night)
Enlisted in Army Air Force in 1942, became officer later that year. Flew missions as gunner on B-17 bombers.

Clayton Moore (Long Ranger)
U.S. Army Air Force during WWII

Cliff Robertson (Wagon Train, PT 109, Spiderman)
U.S. Navy in WWII

Darryl Zanuck (Producer: The King and I, Twelve O'Clock High)
Lt. Col. in U.S. Signal Corps in WWII. Made training films; Accompanied Allied Command in invasion of Africa to make photographic record of event. Awarded Legion of Merit.

David Niven (The Guns of Navarone, Pink Panther)
Graduate of Sandhurst. Lt. Colonel of British Commandos at Normandy.

Dennis Hopper (Perry Mason, Rebel Without a Cause)
Joined U.S. Coast Guard at start of WWII, served as frogman. Awarded Bronze Star.

Dennis Weaver (McCloud, Gunsmoke)
U.S. Navy in WWII as an F4U Fighter Pilot

Don Rickles (Hollywood comedian, CPO Sharky)
U.S. Navy, served on a “hot” destroyer.

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Destination Milan, Gunga Din)
U.S. Navy office, first American Officer to command British Flotilla during commando operation. Chief Officer of Special Operations.

Don Adams (original Get Smart, original Underdog)
U.S. Marine at Guadacanal.

Donald Pleasance (actor in the Great Escape)
R.A.F. pilot was shot down, imprisoned by Nazis, and tortured.

Ed McMahon (The Incident, Big Top, Johnny Carson Show)
Marine Figher Pilot in WWII, flew missions in Korean War.

Eddie Albert (The Longest Day, Green Acres)
Awarded Bronze Star for heroic action as U.S. Navy officer, island of Tarawa, Pacific Theater, 1943.

Ernest Borgnine (McHahill's Navy, Marnie, Torpedo Run)
U.S. Navy Gunners Mate, 1935-45

Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek)
Decorated WWII fighter pilot, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal

George C. Scott (Patton, List of Adrian Messenger)
Decorated U.S. Marine

Glenn Ford (It Started with a Kiss, Superman)
U.S. Marines in European Theater. Awarded European Theater Ribbon with 3 battle stars, French Legion of Honor.

Glenn Miller (Bandleader, Sun Rise Serenade)
Volunteered for U.S. Army in 1942, transferred to Air Force. Formed 50-piece band that toured Europe entertaining troops in over 800 performances. Died in plane crash in 1944.

Harold Russell (The Best Years of Our Lives)
Joined U.S. Army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Served as instructor in Parachute Corps until his hands were blown off in explosives accident.

Henry Fonda (Yours Mine and Ours)
Served in Pacific Theater on destroyer. Earned Philippines Liberation Medal with battle stars, Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal with battle stars.

James Arness (Gunsmoke, Them!)
Fought at Anzio Beach during Allied invasion of Italy.

James Doohan ("Scotty" from Star Trek)
Canadian, wounded in D-Day invasion at Normandy.

Jason Robards, Jr. (A Thousand Clowns, Murders in the Rue Morgue)
U.S. Navy, served in 14 major battles in Pacific Theater. Received Navy Cross.

Jimmy Stewart (Glenn Miller Story, Harvey, Rear Window, Strategic Air Command)
Started as a private in the Army Air Force; worked his way up through rank of Brigadier General. Bomber pilot during WWII with over 20 missions over Germany. Awarded Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars.

John Russell (Rio Bravo, Fighting Coast Guard)
U.S Marine, wounded and highly decorated for actions at Guadalcanal.

Karl Malden (Streets of San Francisco)
U.S. 8th Air Force NCO in WWII.

Kirk Douglas (Young Man with a Horn, Spartacus, War Wagon)
Joined U.S. Navy in WWII, served in Pacific in submarine hunting duties.

Lee Marvin (Dirty Dozen, Paint Your Wagon, Cat Balou)
U.S. Marine on Saipan, awarded Purple Heart

Lee Powell (played Lone Ranger in movies)
U.S. Marines, fought at Tarawa and Saipan. Killed in action.

Mel Brooks (History of the World Part 1, Silent Movie)
Graduate of Virginia Military Institute, fought in WWII at Battle of the Bulge, defused landmines.

Neville Brand (Birdman of Alcatraz, Love Me Tender)
He was the 4th most decorated soldier in WWII. Active in Ardennes, Rineland, and Central European campaigns. Awarded Silver Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Ribbon, European/African/Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 3 Battle Stars.

Paul Newman (Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundace Kid)
U.S. Navy, flew in TBM Avengers in WWII

Red Skelton (Red Skelton show, comedian)
U.S. Army, 1944-45.

Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady, Dr. Doolittle)
Served in the Royal Air Force in WWII, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant

Robert Montgomery (Once More My Darling, The Gallant Hours)
U.S. Navy, served as Naval Attache on British destroyers. Became PT Boat commander and was in D-Day invasion on a destroyer. Earned Bronze Star.

Robert Ryan (Longest Day, Bad Day at Black Rock)
U.S. Marine and served with the OSS in Yugoslavia

Rock Hudson (Ice Station Zebra, Lover Come Back)
Served in the Philippines, U.S. Navy, WWII

Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, Pawnbroker)
Ran away from home at 16 to join the U.S. Navy during WWII, served on destroyers in Pacific Theater

Rod Serling (Twilight Zone)
U.S. Army, served with 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Awarded Purple Heart.

Roy Dotrice (Treasure Island, Nicholas and Alexandra)
Member of Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Shot down in 1942 and spent the rest of wWII in a POW camp.

Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs)
U.S. Marine Corps in WWII

Sterling Hayden (The Godfather, Nine to Five)
U.S. Marines, served in the OSS

Timothy McCoy (Around the World in Eighty Days, The Outlaw Deputy)
Enlisted in WWII after having served in WWI as well. Won Bronze Star.

Tom Poston (Newhart, Mork & Mindy)
Served as as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force during WWII

Tony Bennett (Bruce Almighty, Analyze This)
U.S. Army WII. 63rd Infantry Division (Blood and Fire Division), served in France and in Germany. Studied music under G.I. Bill.

Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot, Operation Petticoat)
U.S. Navy, witnessed (from the bridge of a submarine) Japan signing the Document of Surrender aboard the USS MISSOURI

Tyrone Power (Captain from Castile, The Sun Also Rises)
U.S. Marine, pilot, flew wounded Marines out of Iwo Jima and Okinawa

Walter Matthau (Fortune Cookie, Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men)
U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII, served with 8th Air Force as B-24 radioman-gunner

Wayne Morris (Star of Texas, Lonesome Trail)
First Hollywood actor to enter service for WWII. Served in Pacific Theater flying F6F Hellcat off the carrier USS Essex. Flew 57 missions. Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, 2 Air Medals.

But there are many more examples. Learn from the links below:

Used with permission of

Sunday, November 8, 2009

President Truman and the Bible

People like to claim that religion generally or Christianity specifically had little place in American history. But the facts seem to overwhelm that claim.

Harry Truman became President upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His ceremony was in the White House, and before it could begin, the staff needed to locate a Bible. As President Arthur had done, Truman ended the oath with the optional words "So help me God" and then kissed the Bible. Here is an accounting of that event from the U.S. National Archives.

Summoned to the White House from the Capitol early in the evening of Thursday, April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry S. Truman was escorted upstairs to the study of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Putting her arm around Truman, Eleanor informed him, "Harry, the President is dead." Stunned and speechless, the Vice President found the words to ask Mrs. Roosevelt, "Is there anything I can do for you?" The new widow's reply was simple and to the point: "Is there anything I can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."

Truman, like Tyler, had been Vice President for a short period of time— less than three months. Unlike the Coolidge swearing-in ceremony, this oath of office would be administered in the White House spotlight amid press and high-ranking officials.

In the Cabinet Room, the Vice President, sitting by himself in a brown leather chair, looked "absolutely dazed." A tearful Bess Truman and daughter, Margaret, "feeling as if she were going under anesthesia," arrived. At seven o'clock nearly everyone who was expected, including all ten members of the cabinet, stood quietly waiting for the staff to locate a Bible. Howell Crim, the fastidious head usher, returned with a Gideon edition that was properly dusted before being placed on the table. Truman later told his mother he would have "brought Grandpa Truman's Bible from his office bookcase if had he only known."

Standing in the area between the end of the conference table and the wall, on which the portrait of President Woodrow Wilson hung, Vice President Truman held the book in his left hand as Chief Justice Harlan Stone administered the oath of office. Bess and Margaret stood within arm's length, while the cabinet squeezed into the area's remaining space behind the family. Cameramen, with less bulky equipment than that which disturbed Theodore Roosevelt's 1901 ceremony, positioned themselves to capture such a proceeding on film for the first time. Like Coolidge, Truman ended the oath with the added words "So help me God," and like President Arthur, Truman kissed the Bible.

From the National Archives' magazine Prologue

Friday, November 6, 2009

Christmas Tree, to Holiday Tree, to Christmas Tree, to...?

It has started about on schedule again this year. This time its in Kentucky. The governor there declared that for the first time the season's decorated tree (you know... the one that will be erected during the season much of the nation celebrates the official national holiday of Christmas) will be called the "Holiday Tree." Governor Beshear may not have expected the reaction he received from the people in his state.

As a result of the complaints, the governor decided to go back to calling it the Christmas Tree. One reason the administration said they were surprised by the reaction is that they wanted to be inclusive of the several holidays around this time of year, include New Years. (I wonder if he knows that the term "holiday" comes from combining the words "holy" and "day" into one.)

Read more here:

It's a 'Christmas' tree at the Ky. Capitol again

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

President Chester A. Arthur and the Bible

I have written a series of posts on Presidential inaugurations and the religious words spoken there. I have also mentioned how the Holy Bible was used at all but one of those ceremonies. These efforts are to help correct the mis-impression that the Bible and religious faith had only a small role in our nation's history.

Not all Presidents assumed office via the pomp and circumstance of an inauguration. Chester Arthur, for example, was sworn in during the wee small hours of the morning after the death of President Garfield. However, he used the Holy Bible for his swearing in, and upon completion he said the (optional) words "So help me God" and then kissed the Bible.

Here is the paragraph describing the swearing in:

The Vice President's immediate decision to take the oath of office once he had returned to Washington was dispelled upon receiving a dispatch from the cabinet (gathered near Garfield's cottage at the seaside resort of Elberon, New Jersey), which urged him to take the oath without delay. In the dark of night, District Attorney Rollins and Root searched for Judge John R. Brady of the New York Supreme Court, while Commissioner French hurried from Arthur's home in the opposite direction to locate Judge Charles Donohue, also of the New York Supreme Court. Judge Brady was first to arrive and set about writing out the oath on a piece of paper. Out of courtesy, the party waited for Judge Donohue. Within twenty minutes all had arrived. Arthur's son Chester Alan Arthur, Jr., had arrived about midnight, having driven furiously to the house in a coupe when he heard the news. P. C. Van Wyck, a close friend to the Vice President, moved into the front parlor on the ground floor as the Arthur's valet, Aleck Powell, rearranged the curtains and lit the gas chandelier. At 2:15 A.M. on September 20, the oath was read in low voices as Arthur responded sentence by sentence. Ending with "So help me God," the new President kissed the Bible. The President then affixed his signature under the written oath as did Judge Brady. Over the next few hours, reporters kept the doorbell ringing. Not until 5 A.M. were the lights extinguished, allowing Arthur to retire for a few hours of sleep.

The complete story may be found at the U.S. National Archives site:
Prologue Magazine of The National Archives

Monday, November 2, 2009

May a Church Buy an Ad Just As Anyone Else May?

It's a question being raised in Peoria, Arizona. The high school's football boosters sell space for ads on the back of their scoreboard. Ads have run for Chili's and for Walmart.

But when a church bought the space for an with the name of the football team and the name of the church as sponsor of the ad, some are raising the issue of "separation of church and state." To do so, they must be saying that churches don't have the same rights as other organizations. Free speech is OK as long as it doesn't mention a church's name.

Read more on the ABC 15 website:

Peoria school attorney reviewing controversial church ad

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Benjamin Rush on the Bible in Public Schools

Benjamin Rush was a distinguished physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He had rather, um, strong views on the use of the Holy Bible in public schools. The following is from a tract he published on the subject:

A Defense of the Use of the Bible in Public Schools
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Dear Sir:

It is now several months since I promised to give you my reasons for preferring the Bible as a schoolbook to all other compositions. Before I state my arguments, I shall assume the five following propositions:

I . That Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.

2. That a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the Bible than in any other way.

3. That the Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.

4. That knowledge is most durable, and religious instruction most useful, when imparted in early life.

5. That the Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.

My arguments in favor of the use of the Bible as a schoolbook are founded.

I. In the constitution of the human mind.
1. The memory is the first faculty which opens in the minds of children. Of how much consequence, then, must it be to impress it with the great truths of Christianity, before it is preoccupied with less interesting subjects.

2. There is a peculiar aptitude in the minds of children for religious knowledge. I have constantly found them, in the first six or seven years of their lives, more inquisitive upon religious subjects than upon any others. And an ingenious instructor of youth has informed me that he has found young children more capable of receiving just ideas upon the most difficult tenets of religion than upon the most simple branches of human knowledge. It would be strange if it were otherwise, for God creates all His means to suit His ends. There must, of course, be a fitness between the human mind and the truths which are essential to its happiness.

3. The influence of early impressions is very great upon subsequent life; and in a world where false prejudices do so much mischief, it would discover great weakness not to oppose them by such as are true. I grant that many men have rejected the impressions derived from the Bible; but how much soever these impressions may have been despised, I believe no man was ever early instructed in the truths of the Bible without having been made wiser or better by the early operation of these impressions upon his mind. Every just principle that is to be found in the writings of Voltaire is borrowed from the Bible; and the morality of Deists, which has been so much admired and praised where it has existed, has been, I believe, in most cases, the effect of habits produced by early instruction in the principles of Christianity.

4. We are subject, by a general law of our natures, to what is called habit. Now, if the study of the Scriptures be necessary to our happiness at any time of our life, the sooner we begin to read them, the more we shall probably be attached to them; for it is peculiar to all the acts of habit, to become easy, strong, and agreeable by repetition.

5. It is a law in our natures that we remember longest the knowledge we acquire by the greatest number of our senses. Now, a knowledge of the contents of the Bible is acquired in school by the aid of the eye and the ear, for children, after getting their lessons, read or repeat them to their instructors in an audible voice; of course, there is a presumption that this knowledge will be retained much longer than if it had been acquired in any other way.

6. The interesting events and characters recorded and described in the Old and New Testaments are calculated, above all others, to seize upon all the faculties of the mind of children. The understanding, the memory, the imagination, the passions, and the moral powers are all occasionally addressed by the various incidents which are contained in those divine books, insomuch that not to be delighted with them is to be devoid of every principle of pleasure that exists in a sound mind.

7. There is in man a native preference of truth to fiction. Lord Shaftesbury says that "truth is so congenial to our mind that we love even the shadow of it"; and Horace, in his rules for composing an epic poem, established the same law in our natures by advising that "fictions in poetry should resemble truth." Now, the Bible contains more truth than any other book in the world; so true is the testimony that it bears of God in His works of creation, providence, and redemption that it is called truth itself, by way of preeminence above other things that are acknowledged to be true. How forcibly are we struck with the evidence of truth in the history of the Jews, above what we discover in the history of other nations. Where do we find a hero or an historian record his own faults or vices except in the Old Testament? Indeed, my friend, from some accounts which I have read of the American Revolution, I begin to grown skeptical to all history except that which is contained in the Bible. Now, if this book be known to contain nothing but what is materially true, the mind will naturally acquire a love for it from this circumstance; and from this affection for the truths of the Bible, it will acquire a discernment of truth in other books, and a preference of it in all the transactions of life.

8. There is wonderful property in the memory which enables it in old age to recover the knowledge acquired in early life after it had been apparently forgotten for forty or fifty years. Of how much consequence, then, must it be to fill the mind with that species of knowledge in childhood and youth which, when recalled in the decline of life, will support the soul under the infirmities of age and smooth the avenues of approaching death. The Bible is the only book which is capable of affording this support to old age; and it is for this reason that we find it resorted to with so much diligence and pleasure by such old people as have read it in early life. I can recollect many instances of this kind in persons who discovered no special attachment to the Bible in the meridian of their days, who have, notwithstanding, spent the evening of life in reading no other book. The late Sir John Pringle, physician to the queen of Great Britain, after passing a long life in camps and at court, closed it by studying the Scriptures. So anxious was he to increase his knowledge in them that he wrote to Dr. Michaelis, a learned professor of divinity in Germany, for an explanation of a difficult text of Scripture a short time before his death.

II. My second argument in favor of the use of the Bible in schools is founded upon an implied command of God and upon the practice of several of the wisest nations of the world.

In the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, we find the following words, which are directly to my purpose: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

It appears, moreover, from the history of the Jews, that they flourished as a nation in proportion as they honored and read the books of Moses, which contained the only revelation that God had made to the world. The law was not only neglected, but lost, during the general profligacy of manner which accompanied the long and wicked reign of Manasseh. But the discovery of it amid the rubbish of the temple by Josiah and its subsequent general use were followed by a return of national virtue and prosperity. We read further of the wonderful effects which the reading of the law by Ezra, after his return from his captivity in Babylon, had upon the Jews. They showed the sincerity of their repentance by their general reformation.

The learning of the Jews, for many years, consisted in a knowledge of the Scriptures. These were the textbooks of all the instruction that was given in the schools of their Prophets. It was by means of this general knowledge of their law that those Jews who wandered from Judea into other countries carried with them and propagated certain ideas of the true God among all the civilized nations upon the face of the earth. And it was from the attachment they retained to the Old Testament that they procured a translation of it into the Greek language, after they had lost the Hebrew tongue by their long absence from their native country. The utility of this translation, commonly called the Septuagint, in facilitating the progress of the Gospel is well known to all who are acquainted with the history of the first age of the Christian church.

But the benefits of an early and general acquaintance with the Bible were not confined to the Jewish nation; they have appeared in many countries in Europe since the Reformation. The industry and habits of order which distinguish many of the German nations are derived from their early instruction in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible. In Scotland and in parts of New England, where the Bible has been long used as a schoolbook, the inhabitants are among the most enlightened in religions and science, the most strict in morals, and the most intelligent in human affairs of any people whose history has come to my knowledge upon the surface of the globe.

I wish to be excused from repeating here that if the Bible did not convey a single direction for the attainment of future happiness, it should be read in our schools in preference to all other books from its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness.

We err, not only in human affairs but in religion likewise, only because we do not "know the Scriptures" and obey their instructions. Immense truths, I believe, are concealed in them. The time, I have no doubt, will come when posterity will view and pity our ignorance of these truths as much as we do the ignorance sometimes manifested by the disciples of our Saviour, who knew nothing of the meaning of those plain passages in the Old Testament which were daily fulfilling before their eyes.

But further, we err, not only in religion but in philosophy likewise, because we "do not know or believe the Scriptures." The sciences have been compared to a circle, of which religion composes a part. To understand any one of them perfectly, it is necessary to have some knowledge of them all. Bacon, Boyle, and Newton included the Scriptures in the inquiries to which their universal geniuses disposed them, and their philosophy was aided by their knowledge in them. A striking agreement has been lately discovered between the history of certain events recorded in the Bible and some of the operations and productions of nature, particularly those which are related in Whitehurst's observation on the deluge, in Smith's account of the origin of the variety of color in the human species, and in Bruce's travels. It remains yet to be shown how many other events related in the Bible accord with some late important discoveries in the principles of medicine. The events and the principles alluded to mutually establish the truth of each other.

I know it is said that the familiar use of the Bible in our schools has a tendency to lessen a due reverence for it. But this objection, by proving too much, proves nothing. If familiarity lessens respect for divine things, then all those precepts of our religion which enjoin the daily or weekly worship of the Deity are improper. The Bible was not intended to represent a Jewish ark; and it is an anti-Christian idea to suppose that it can be profaned by being carried into a schoolhouse, or by being handled by children.

It is also said that a great part of the Old Testament is no way interesting to mankind under the present dispensation of the Gospel. But I deny that any of the books of the Old Testament are not interesting to mankind under the Gospel dispensation. Most of the characters, events, and ceremonies mentioned in them are personal, providential, or instituted types of the Messiah, all of which have been, or remain yet, to be fulfilled by Him. It is from an ignorance or neglect of these types that we have so many Deists in Christendom, for so irreftagably do they prove the truth of Christianity that I am sure a young man who had been regularly instructed in their meaning could never doubt afterwards of the truth of any of its principles. If any obscurity appears in these principles, it is only, to use the words of the poet, because they are dark with excessive brightness.

I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker. If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into our world would have been unnecessary. He came to promulgate a system of doctrines, as well as a system of morals. The perfect morality of the Gospel rests upon a doctrine which, though often controverted, has never been refuted; I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God. This sublime and ineffable doctrine delivers us from the absurd hypothesis of modern philosophers concerning the foundation of moral obligation, and fixes it upon the eternal and self-moving principle of LOVE. It concentrates a whole system of ethics in a single text of Scripture: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you." By withholding the knowledge of this doctrine from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds. We do more; we furnish an argument for withholding from them a knowledge of the morality of the Gospel likewise; for this, in many instances, is as supernatural, and therefore as liable to be controverted, as any of the doctrines or miracles which are mentioned in the New Testament. The miraculous conception of the Saviour of the world by a virgin is not more opposed to the ordinary course of natural events, nor is the doctrine of the atonement more above human reason, than those moral precepts which command us to love our enemies or to die for our friends.

I cannot but suspect that the present fashionable practice of rejecting the Bible from our schools has originated with Deists. And they discover great ingenuity in this new mode of attacking Christianity. If they proceed in it, they will do more in half a century in extirpating our religion than Bolingbroke or Voltaire could have effected in a thousand years.

But passing by all other considerations, and contemplating merely the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues which constitute the soul of republicanism.

Perhaps an apology may be necessary for my having presumed to write upon a subject so much above my ordinary studies. My excuse for it is that I thought a single mite from a member of a profession which has been frequently charged with skepticism in religion might attract the notice of persons who had often overlooked the more ample contributions, upon this subject, of gentlemen in other professions.

With great respect, I am, etc.

Benjamin Rush

As found in The millennial harbinger, Volume 1, by William Kimbrough Pendleton
See the Google Books excerpt