But the long-standing American tradition of prayer at official ceremonies displays with unmistakable clarity that the Establishment Clause does not forbid the government to accommodate it. The narrow context of the present case involves a community’s celebration of one of the milestones in its young citizen’s lives, and it is a bold step for this Court to seek to banish from that occasion, and from thousands of similar celebrations throughout this land, the expression of gratitude to God that a majority of the community wishes to make. The Weisman case fully illustrates the anti-religious bias which now dominates much of the Court’s current jurisprudence. In fact, public expressions of prayer have been such a consistent loser over the past three decades that the district judge who issued the original ruling in the Weisman case had concluded:
The Constitution as the Supreme Court views it does not permit it prayer. Unfortunately, in this instance there is no satisfactory middle ground. Those who are anti-prayer have thus been deemed the victors.
These eight representative cases, selected from scores of similar cases, confirm that the current First Amendment is unlike the one originally delivered by the Founders. In its remaking of the First Amendment over the past three decades, the Court has created four different standards: the “Establishment Test” 1947, the “Lemon Test” 1971 discussed in the following chapter, the “Endorsement Test” 1985, and the psychological “Coercion Test” 1992 now called the “Outsider Test”. Observing these changes, one is reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s warning: The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.
Under the influence of the judiciary, the Constitution has indeed taken on a new “form,” and even if an individual had absolutely no knowledge of our heritage or constitutional history, one must wonder at the logic behind the current interpretation. The First Amendment’s wording is explicit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
David Barton - Believers and nonbelievers are asking these questions, "Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Where am I going? How can I get help in this relationship? How can I forgive this person?
Clearly, prominent Founders saw the Ten Commandments and religious codes in general – as the foundation of American civil law. In fact, the belief was clear that public adherence to religious principles was the greatest source of security for civil government:
The Holy Scriptures can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments protections around our institutions. James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet. Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House
Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men; they acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart. It is one of the greatest marks of Divine favor bestowed upon the children of Israel that the legislator God gave those rules not only of action, but for the government of the heart. John Quincy Adams
We seek to prevent in some measure the extension of the penal code by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an early age. By general instruction we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. Daniel Webster
Had I a voice that could be heard from New Hampshire to Georgia, it should be exerted in urging the necessity of disseminating virtue and knowledge among our citizens. On this subject, the policy of the eastern States is well worth of imitation. The wise people of that extremity of the union never form a new township without making arrangements that secure to its inhabitants the instruction of youth and the public preaching of the gospel. Hence their children are early taught to know their rights and to respect themselves. They grow up good members of society and staunch defenders of their country’s cause. David Ramsay, Revolutionary Surgeon; Member of the Continental Congress
David Barton - How can I have my deepest and most profound needs met?" There is some overlap there. There are also some unique things that are different for the believer and the nonbeliever but there are many things that bleed together.
The sanctions of religion compose the foundations of good government. Dewitt Clinton, introduced the Twelfth Amendment; Governor of New York City; U.S. Senator
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament. Benjamin Rush, Signer of the declaration
God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both. John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration
However, the Court was not particularly interested in the Founders’ views on this subject; in fact, it openly acknowledged its contempt for America’s heritage when it remarked: That New York prayer seems relatively insignificant when compared to the governmental encroachments upon religion which were commonplace 200 years ago.
The Court also claimed that to approve any specific wording made the prayer constitutionally infirm an argument effectively dismantled by Justice Potter Stewart in his dissent:
The Court today says that the State and federal governments are without constitutional power to prescribe any particular form of words to be recited by any group of the American people on any subject touching religion. One of the stanzas of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” made our National Anthem by Act of Congress in 1931, contains these verses:
“Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto ‘In God is our Trust.’ ” In 1954, Congress added a phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag so that it now contains the words “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. Since 1865 the words “In God We Trust” have been impressed on our coins. Countless similar examples could be listed, but there is no need to belabor the obvious. I do not believe that this Court, or the Congress, or the President has by the actions and practices I have mentioned established an “official religion” in violation of the Constitution. And I do not believe the State of New York has done so in this case.
David Barton - I want to ask you a question here folks. How many of you like to cook? Do you enjoy cooking? Come on, guys, gals, OK. Now those of you who like to cook, I am sure, if you are like our family, you have had people into your home as guests.
I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears. Robert Treat Paine, Signer of Declaration
Pardon, we beseech Thee, all our offences of omission and commission; and grant that in all our thoughts, words, and actions, we may conform to Thy known will manifested in our consciences, and in the revelations of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Timothy Pickering, Revolutionary General; Secretary of State
I am at last reconciled to my God and have assurance of His pardon through faith in Christ, against which the very gates of hell cannot prevail. Fear hath been driven out by perfect love. John Randolph of Roanoke, U. S. Congressman; U. S. Diplomat
My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Benjamin Rush, Signer of Declaration
I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory that the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. I believe that the souls of believers are at their death made perfectly holy and immediately taken to glory: that at the end of this world there will be a resurrection of the dead and a final judgment of all mankind when the righteous shall be publicly acquitted by Christ the Judge and admitted to everlasting life and glory, and the wicked be sentenced to everlasting punishment. Roger Sherman, Signer of the Declaration; Signer of the Constitution
David Barton - Right? When you cook food for your guests, usually you are more thoughtful and creative in the way you serve the food. Maybe you use a table decoration and place mats.
Therefore, allowing for overlap and the inclusion of leaders like Henry and Webster, approximately two hundred- and-fifty individuals are considered here as “Founding Fathers.”
To determine whether these “Founding Fathers” were generally atheists, agnostics, and deists, one must first define those terms. An “atheist” is one who professes to believe that there is no God; an “agnostic” is one who professes that nothing can be known beyond what is visible and tangible; 4 and a “deist” is one who believes in an impersonal God who is no longer involved with mankind. In other words, a “deist” embraces the “clockmaker theory” hat there was a God who made the universe and wound it up like a clock; however, it now runs of its own volition; the clockmaker is gone and therefore does not respond to man.
Today the terms “atheist,” “agnostic,” and “deist” have been used together so often that their meanings have almost become synonymous. In fact, many dictionaries list these words as synonyms. Those who advance the notion that this was the belief system of the Founders often publish information attempting to prove that the Founders were irreligious. Some of the quotes they set forth include: This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it. John Adams
The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion. George Washington
I disbelieve all holy men and holy books. Thomas Paine
Are these statements accurate? Did these prominent Founders truly repudiate religion? An answer will be found by an examination of the sources of the above statements.
David Barton - In our home the burping level is kept at a minimum, food throwing discouraged. We change. The conversation is altered. Are we being hypocritical? No.
As the war prolonged, the shortage of Bibles remained a problem. Consequently, Robert Aitken, publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine, petitioned Congress on January 21, 1781, for permission to print the Bibles on his presses here in America rather than import them. He pointed out to Congress that his Bible would be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.” 128 Congress approved his request and appointed a committee of James Duane, Thomas McKean, and John Witherspoon too verses the project. In October 1781, amidst the work on the Bible, the Americans won the Battle of Yorktown and the British troops laid down their arms. The British press reported the activities surrounding the surrender: It was on the 19th of October that Lord Cornwallis surrendered himself and his whole army.
Two days after the capitulation took place, Divine service was performed in all the different brigades and divisions of the American army in order to return thanks to the Almighty for this great event; and it was recommended by General Washington to all the troops that were not upon duty, in his general orders, that they would assist at Divine service “with a serious deportment and with that sensibility of heart which the recollection of the surprising and particular interposition of Providence in their favor claimed.”
On October 24, 1781, Congress, too, set aside a time to honor God for this victory and: Resolved, That Congress will at two o’clock this day go in procession to the Dutch Lutheran Church and return thanks to Almighty God for crowning the allied arms of the United States and France with success by the surrender of the whole British Army under the command of the Earl Cornwallis. Despite the victory, work on the new Bible continued. As it neared its final stage of readiness in late summer 1782, James Duane, chairman of the Congressional committee, reported to Congress: He Mr. Aitken undertook this expensive work at a time when from the circumstances of neither the war an English edition of the Bible could not be imported, nor any opinion formed how long the obstruction might continue.
David Barton - We are being sensitive to the needs of our guests. When we plan these services every single weekend we are serving the food, the truth which is the Word of God, yet we are serving it in a more creative and thoughtful way.
The evidence is clear that for years the Founders pursued peaceful reconciliation and entreaty and that it was Great Britain which terminated the discussions. In fact, separation from Great Britain was not selected as the American course of action until two years after King George III had drawn the sword and sent armed troops against his own citizens in America. As signer of the Declaration John Witherspoon made clear: On the part of America, there was not the most distant thought of subverting the government or of hurting the interest of the people of Great Britain; but of defending their own privileges from unjust encroachment; there was not the least desire of withdrawing their allegiance from the common sovereign King George III till it became absolutely necessary and indeed, was his own choice. When the decision for a separation was made, the Founders still maintained their strong entreaty to God for the justness of their actions. For example, in a letter to British officials, Samuel Adams, the Father of the American Revolution, declared: There is One above us who will take exemplary vengeance for every insult upon His majesty. You know that the cause of America is just.
You know that she contends for that freedom to which all men are entitled that she contends against oppression, rapine, and more than savage barbarity. The blood of the innocent is upon your hands, and all the waters of the ocean will not wash it away. We again make our solemn appeal to the God of heaven to decide between you and us. And we pray that, in the doubtful scale of battle, we may be successful as we have justice on our side, and that the merciful Saviour of the world may forgive our oppressors. Adams also authored a manifesto for the Continental Congress which reflected a similar tone: We, therefore, the Congress of the United States of America, do solemnly declare and proclaim that. We appeal to the God who searcheth the hearts of men for the rectitude of our intentions; and in His holy presence declare that, as we are not moved by any light or hasty suggestions of anger or revenge, so through every possible change of fortune we will adhere to this our determination.
After the separation occurred, despite the years of peaceful entreaties, some British leaders specifically accused the Americans of anarchy and rebellion. To this charge, John Quincy Adams forcefully responded: There was no anarchy. The people of the North American union, and of its constituent States, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians in a state of nature, but not of anarchy.
David Barton - We are being sensitive to the needs of our guests, the seeker, the nonbeliever, as well as the saint. Worship must be sensitive.
It is the day of the first visible triumph over death, hell and the grave! It was the birth day of the believer in Christ, to whom and through whom it opened up the way which, by repentance and faith, leads unto everlasting life and eternal happiness! On that day we rest, and to us it is the Sabbath of the Lord its decent observance, in a Christian community, is that which ought to be expected.
The defense argued that to legislate according to Christian standards violated religious toleration. However, the court vehemently disagreed with this argument, pointing out: What gave to us this noble safeguard of religious toleration? It was Christianity. But this toleration, thus granted, is a religious toleration; it is the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, with two provisos, one of which, that which guards against acts of licentiousness immorality, testifies to the Christian construction.
What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There certainly is none other. The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of Pagan immorality.
In the Courts over which we preside, we daily acknowledge Christianity as the most solemn part of our administration. A Christian witness, having no religious scruples about placing his hand upon the book, is sworn upon the holy Evangelists the books of the New Testament which testify of our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection; this is so common a matter that it is little thought of as an evidence of the part which Christianity has in the common law.
I agree fully to what is beautifully and appropriately said in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law: “not Christianity founded on any particular religious tenets; not Christianity with an established church but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.” In the view of the Charleston court, Christian principles had produced America’s toleration for other religions; and while America did legislate according to Christian standards of conduct for social behavior, it did not tell other religions how, where, when, or even whether to worship. The only restraints placed on those religions were that their religious practices not be licentious or subversive of public morality or safety. Aside from these stipulations, America granted broad religious toleration to other religions not in spite of, but because of its Christian beliefs.
David Barton - We are being sensitive to the needs of our guests, the seeker, the nonbeliever, as well as the saint. Worship must be sensitive.Join a church locally. Also establish a place of worship in your life. It might be in your study, in your apartment, at your desk.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” After citing many additional historical examples, the Court then reviewed several legal precedents which further buttressed its declaration: We find that in Updegraph v.
The Commonwealth, 11 S. & R. 394, 400, it was decided that, “Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law not Christianity with an established church but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.” And in The People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290, 294, 295, Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said:
“The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice. We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity and not upon the doctrines or worships of those impostors other religions.” And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, How. 127, 198, this Court observed: “It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law.” After several pages of similar discourse, the Court concluded: There is no dissonance in these declarations.
There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons: they are organic legal, governmental utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.
As far as the Court was concerned, the issue was closed; it would never support any action which might have the effect of suppressing religion or of limiting religious expression. Since the Court cited Updegraph v. Commonwealth, People v. Ruggles, and Vidal v. Girard’s Executors in reaching its conclusion, it will be profitable to review these cases. However, before examining these three cases and seventeen others an observation should first be made about rulings issued by State Supreme Courts.
David Barton - Once you establish a place, that place can become like the Garden of Gethsemane was for Jesus, a place of worship with a special aura surrounding it.
Consequently, as Justice Joseph Story explained, through Article VI it was possible that on the federal level the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Armenian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils without any inquisition into their faith or mode of worship. Did this therefore mean as many currently claim that the Founders were attempting to prevent an investigation into the religious beliefs of a candidate, or that such beliefs were immaterial to his election?
Definitely not see the Founders’ clear views on this issue in Chapter 18. The issue was not the investigation of the religious beliefs of candidates, but rather the jurisdiction for such investigations. The Founders believed that the investigation of the religious views of a candidate should not be conducted by the federal government, but rather by the voters in each State. What evidence supports this?
The discussion of this topic during the ratification debates provides extensive evidence. For example, in the North Carolina ratifying convention, Governor Samuel Johnston explained: It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans, pagans, &c., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, but in one of two cases. First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen.
Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves. Another case is if any persons of such descriptions should, notwithstanding their religion, acquire the confidence and esteem of the people of America by their good conduct and practice of virtue, they may be chosen. Signer of the Constitution Richard Dobbs Spaight also declared: As to the subject of religion no power is given to the general federal government to interfere with it at all. No sect is preferred to another. Every man has a right to worship the Supreme Being in the manner he thinks proper.
David Barton - The fourth suggestion. Put it into practice. Worship isn't worship unless there is change. Put into practice what you have learned, how you have experienced God. Live it out.