ENDOWED BY OUR CREATOR… WITH A DUTY TO PROCLAIM IT
[The majority of the following information comes from David Barton’s American Heritage Series.
Early in American history, Americans were very open, almost naked, about their faith. Even the Founding Fathers didn’t keep religious proclamations, prayer meetings and prayer sittings private. They were done publicly.
Over the last fifty years, Americans have been taught to compartmentalize many aspects about their life – especially faith. Starting in the 1960s, the US Supreme Court made a few decisions that proclaimed how important the First Amendment was to America and that the freedom of religion was something to be cherished. But then they stated that it was something that should be done at home or church and not to be seen in public. If Americans wanted to pray, it was more appropriate to do it at home or church and before and after school. But prayer was not to be included with education or the extra-curricular activities involved with it. Even the Ten Commandments were seen as very important to Americans… as long as they were posted at home. The court system didn’t need them posted there. And Nativity Scenes were beautiful, as long as they were at home or church. Parks or public places didn’t need them anymore. So, for the last fifty years, we’ve been told that faith IS important, but only in a private arena.
Compare that to the times of our Founding Fathers.
God was SO IMPORTANT to our Founding Fathers, that when they met in Congress for the first time in September of 1774, the very first thing they did was open with prayer. It wasn’t just a little run of the mill, routine prayer like we might hear at a public meeting today. According to those who were there, that time of prayer in Congress was momentous as well as extended. John Adams recalls that not only did they pray, but the delegates covered FOUR chapters of the bible in Congress that first day.
That particular bible study was so memorable and had such an enormous effect, that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, “I never saw a greater effect on an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on the morning… I must beg you to read that Psalm… [R]ead this letter and the 35th Psalm to [your friends]. Read it to your father.”
Psalm 35 shows how the faithful should pray when they know that malicious people are seeking to harm them. The prayer recounts the evil schemes of the persecutors and asks God to fight on behalf of His faithful ones. By the way, Abigail Adams’ father was William Smith, the pastor of the local church. Silas Deane, another delegate, said that this time of prayer and scripture reading in Congress was SO powerful that “[E]ven the Quakers shed tears.”
Now let’s consider John Hancock. After serving as President of Congress during the Revolution, he was elected Governor of Massachusetts where he issued several proclamations calling the state to prayer and Thanksgiving.
In one proclamation dated October 15, 1791, he wrote, "And pray especially that universal happiness can be established in the world and that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ and that the whole Earth may be filled with his glory." This one proclamation of many is evident of Hancock’s evangelistic nature and is reflective of his own Christian beliefs.
Another Founding Patriot, Samuel Adams, participated as a leader in the Boston Tea Party and as one of the Sons of Liberty. He has been titled the “Father of the American Revolution.” After the Revolution, Adams remained active in politics. He was even one who was actively advocating and then involved in composing the Bill of Rights. He eventually ended up as Governor of Massachusetts where he issued a 1795 proclamation for prayer, fasting and thanksgiving. Throughout the proclamation is very strong evangelical tones: “...That the Peaceful and Glorious Reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole Family of Mankind." He even repeated these evangelical sentiments in a 1797 Proclamation: “…speedily bringing on the Holy and Happy Period when the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.”
The Declaration of Independence itself proclaimed to the world they had a “firm reliance on Divine Providence.” In fact, during the Revolution, the Continental Congress issued at least 15 proclamations of national prayer. They were from different committees, by various founders, all with strong Biblical language.
There is NO doubt that America has been a successful nation with a stable and successful government BECAUSE OF the Foundation on which it was built; a Foundation unlike any other nation in the world – a Biblical Foundation.
George Washington, in his famous farewell address in 1796, reminded us why our government and its policies were so successful. He declared, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable support.”
In Washington’s first FEDERAL Proclamation of Prayer in 1789, he wrote, ”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 thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." This proclamation was delivered directly after the First Amendment was written. Washington, along with his fellow Founders knew that they had to stop and give thanks to God for guiding them in the creation of that First Amendment.
A famous prayer proclamation that John Adams wrote in 1789 stated, “AS the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed.” The Founders believed that it is our DUTY, a NATIONAL DUTY, to acknowledge and worship God.
These are just two of the 1,500 OFFICIAL proclamations for prayer issued in America between 1622 and 1815. Of those, 300 are issued by churches and 1,200 are issued by the government. After 1815, there are thousands more issued by the federal government. Again, these proclamations announced a NATIONAL DUTY, not a private one as we are directed to do today.
Thomas Jefferson seemed to be even more poignant on the matter. In the very first book that he ever wrote in 1781, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he wrote, “God is who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we remove their only firm basis? A conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God, and that they are not to be violated but with His wrath. Indeed, I tremble for my country when a reflectant God is just and His justice won’t sleep.” In other words, we cannot have NATIONAL liberties if there is no conviction in our minds that these liberties are the gift of God. If we lose sight of this, then we also lose those liberties.
In Benjamin Franklin’s most famous speech, dated Thursday, June 28, 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, he reminded the delegates that they needed God to be America’s friend and ally, and to keep God’s “concurrent aid.” He also warned, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without [H]is notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without [H]is aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writing that, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’” Franklin called for regular, daily prayer to make sure that they kept God in the midst of what they were doing in the nation.
Many of the Founding Fathers who were a part of writing the US Constitution were also instrumental in writing the constitutions of their respective states. Samuel Adams and John Adams helped write the Massachusetts constitution; Benjamin Rush and James Wilson helped write Pennsylvania’s constitution; George Read and Thomas McKean helped write Delaware’s constitution; the same was true in other States as well. In fact, the Supreme Court used to point to these State constitutions as precedents in their rulings to demonstrate the Founders’ intent.
Look at the DEFINITIVE LANGUAGE in the following excerpts from those respective constitutions:
DELAWARE: Every person, who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I do profess faith in God the father, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forever more, and I do acknowledge the Holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
PENNSYLVANIA: And each member [of his legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: “I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.”
MASSACHUSETTS: [All persons elected must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. “I do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have firm persuasion of its truth.”
NORTH CAROLINA: No person, who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the [Christian] religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office, or place of trust or profit in the civil department, within this State.
These were not merely suggestions but constitutional REQUIREMENTS from the respective states about the role of God IN THE STATE. One had to believe that God’s principles applied to civil government. If not, he or she couldn’t be in any public office. At that time, it was seen as a DUTY, but compared to today, teachers, judges, government officials, etc. are NOT allowed to proclaim there faith openly. They wouldn’t be allowed to hold that position if they did.
As stated above, Americans have been taught to compartmentalize their faith in the last 50 years. We have learned to place faith in one corner separate from education, business, and government in other separate corners of our lives. And it has been the court system that has had a major part in this – even to the point of inflicting penalties for public displays of faith. Our modern media is very discriminating in that it shows several aspects of what the courts do, and yet very little of the courts involvement with matters of faith – unless it goes against faith.
We have had public education in America since 1647. We have had prayer in schools since 1647. Suddenly, after more than 300 years, the courts tell us that we have to pray at home or church and not in schools or even at a graduation commencements. There are still many, many schools in this nation where the students and faculty WANT to have prayer in school.
In a Texas based federal court ruling, dealing with one of those schools, the federal judge decides to let the school have prayer, but HE gets to tell them how to pray. He says, “This court will allow prayer if it’s a typical non-denominational prayer. The prayer can refer to God or the Almighty, but the prayer must not refer to Jesus. And make no mistake. This court is going to have a United State Marshall in attendance at graduation. If any student offends this court [and mentions Jesus in the prayer], that student will be summarily arrested and face 6 months incarceration in the Galveston County Jail.”
The courts have determined to tell the American people what religion means, and this is what they have gotten into with the First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Rather than allowing it to say the words that are written, in the context of which they were written, the courts base their rulings on a phrase that is no where in the Constitution – Separation of Church and State.
Logically, the words of the First Amendment mean that Congress cannot make a law, not that children cannot pray. So, how did “Congress” come to mean “children” and how did “law” come to mean “pray?” Unfortunately, it’s because the courts said it did. This reasoning is based on an unconstitutional philosophy that was introduced into the courts by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes that said “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” That philosophy lives on in the courts today!
The Founding Fathers did not intend for any branch of the federal government to behave in this manner. The 90 or so Founders who were involved in the debate over the First Amendment made it clear that they did not want a national, federal denomination. They did not want the federal government to tell the citizens that they had to be a certain denomination and practice their religion based on the doctrines of that specific denomination. There was NOTHING about separating God from government or public life. That is why freedom of religion is partnered with freedom of speech and also to the right to peaceably assemble anywhere in public. Therefore when it comes to practicing our faith, Congress can’t stop it AND we can practice it WHEREVER we want to.
We have been given unalienable rights…. And it is out DUTY proclaim them for the Glory of God!