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.