Wednesday, July 4, 2001

God and the 4th: Listen to our Founding Fathers

In recent days we have heard a lot about religious liberty issues. For example, the ACLU recently filed a federal lawsuit demanding that a Ten Commandments monument be removed from the lawn of a county courthouse. There are other issues in the courts concerning Bible clubs on campus, student-led prayer at graduations, and removing "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.

As these issues are debated, many citizens are unclear about how religion fits into public life. Some will say, "What about separation of church and state?" Others believe that our country was founded on godly principles. But, what did the framers of our constitution, and other Founding Fathers, have to say about religion?

As we celebrate this Fourth of July, I would like to share some quotes from our Founding Fathers and their view of religion in public life.

"... our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits." Daniel Webster.

Listen to our first president, George Washington, in his inaugural address to the congress as he stressed God's role in the birth of this republic:

"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency ... We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained."

One of the first official acts of George Washington was the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, which reads,

"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 implore His protection and favor ..." It goes on to call on this nation to thankfulness to Almighty God.

Consider the testimony of Abraham Lincoln:

"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."

Listen to what Noah Webster had to say:

"The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible."

On another occasion he said, "The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles ... to this we owe our free constitutions of government."

On April 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer with the following proclamation:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But, we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us: and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

Keith Turner


What do you think of this story?
Click here to send a message to the editor.

Back to Opinion Home Page | Back to the top of the page