Presidents, as well as many other citizens, attended church services held on Sundays in the United States Capitol building.  President Thomas Jefferson, “during his whole administration, 1801-1809, was a most regular church attendant,” documents James H. Hutson in Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Ministers of several Christian denominations conducted the services.  Honoring the nonsectarian God of creation in public and on government property is an important manifestation of civic faith.  in addition to attending church services in the Capitol building, Thomas Jefferson made significant financial contributions to that ministry.

“After the Civil War, from 1865-1868, the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., permitted the newly organized First Congregational Church of Washington to use its chambers for church and Sunday school services.  During that same time, specifically on May 13, 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment which, according to some later judicial foolishness, forbids religious activities on public property.”

Editors of the book Speeches That Changed the World started with the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17) and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).  These editors recognized the good that believers have contributed to society and the superior quality of the Bible as literature.  Later in Speeches That Changed the World are speeches by two Darwinian evolutionists, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.  Their leadership did influence the world.  The murder of millions of innocent people demonstrates the depths to which the open-mindedness of Darwin’s Origin of the Species dogma can take man.*

Addressing Congress, Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed:  “I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism, and atheism prevail in the world.” **

The proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863 sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”  According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extra-ordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. … No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

*Simon S. Montefiore, Speeches That Changed the World (London: Quercus Publishing, 2005).

**Benjamin Rush, Annals of Congress 1834, Vol. I (September 25, 1789), 949-50.

D. Norris

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