Wednesday, May 11, 2005

George Washington Slapped Here

President George Washington seemingly saw it coming, and took a preemptive slap at evangelists who would try to hijack the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for their particular brand of religion.

“The National Day of Prayer goes back to the Continental Congress with George Washington, when he set aside a day of prayer," evangelist Franklin Graham stated on a recent broadcast of Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes,” in a story reported on May 10, 2005 by Allie Martin of Agape Press. "So this goes back to the very beginning and the foundations of this nation."

Graham was right about that. But he slipped when he implied that our country’s founders, including President Washington, intended America’s first national day of prayer to be limited to folks of any particular religious sect or creed. Graham broadly suggested that the day was for people of the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” especially Evangelicals.

In fact, President George Washington used his first proclamation of a national day of prayer and thanksgiving to take a preemptive slap at anyone who might try to hijack the holiday for their own sectarian purposes.

When President George Washington proclaimed America’s first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789, he recommended that the primary blessing for which the people of the United States ought to express gratitude is the peaceful establishment of a federal government that promotes “safety and happiness” by respecting everyone’s “civil and religious liberty.” Washington explained that we ought to be thankful, first and foremost, for being a nation of laws governed by a constitution which establishes no state religion, but respects the right of all to worship and pray as they choose.

Specifically, Washington gave thanks “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.” Our nation’s first president also stated that people ought to use this first national day of prayer and thanksgiving to supplicate God “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.”

So, according to President Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation, which he signed in New York City on October 3, 1789, the United States isn’t intended to be a nation ruled by any one religious sect’s narrow interpretation of the Bible, but by “a government of wise, just and constitutional laws.” And, according to Washington, the National Day of Prayer is an open invitation for everyone, not just people of any favored sect or creed, to give thanks for civil and religious liberties which are guaranteed by our national constitution. For that great American tradition, we can all truly be thankful. -- Jonathan Hutson


Blogger Frederick Clarkson said...

If David Barton has honest intent, he could learn from the historical perspective on the founder's view towards church/state separation showcased on this site.

6:32 PM  

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