What did the “Establishment of religion” mean in 1776

Patrick Henry, portrait by George Bagby Matthe...

Patrick Henry

Another myth is what was meant in the Bill of Rights by the religious rights clause in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note that the prohibition is against laws, it is not against individuals who happen to be in the employ of government. When somebody puts a Ten Commandments plaque on the wall, ask yourself: (1) Is he “Congress”? (2) By doing so, what religion did he “establish”, as in what official religion is established, any more than the witch that recently delivered the benediction at a governor’s inauguration? (3) What free exercise of what religion was restricted?

The attempt to get an official court decision that the United States is a “secular nation”, say its proponents, is not a violation of religious freedom. And yet they say that the motto “In God we trust” is a violation of religious freedom.

Some open-minded people will be able to see that as the self-contradictory reasoning, which it is.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution signed and agreed to by our founding fathers

“This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.” Patrick Henry in Last Will and Testament, November 20, 1798 Moses C. Tyler, Patrick Henry, p. 395 (1898, reprinted 1972)

“I have tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty; through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.” Alexander Hamilton’s last dying words, July 12, 1804

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religious, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.” Patrick Henry 1776

“I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.” Thomas Jefferson

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – Speech Sept. 17, 1796 (source) Get the mug from Right Things

“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thee and thy son, Jesus Christ.” George Washington

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” John Quincy Adams 6th US President and son of John Adams

“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.” The US Congress 1782

“We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.” – James Madison (original source not verified Suplimental Source: “America’s God And Country Encyclopedia Of Quotations.” William J. Federer. Fame Publishing, Inc. 820 South MacArthur Blvd., Coppell, Texas 75019-4214. 1994)

“The right of the colonist as Christians…may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Lawgiver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.” Samuel Adams “The Rights of the Colonists” Get the mug from Right Things

“I think the Christian religion is a Divine institution; and I pray to God that I may never forget the precepts of His religion or suffer the appearance of an inconsistency in my principle and practice.” James Iredell Supreme Court Justice

“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

“I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, an 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.” Roger Sherman

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity religion and morality are indispensable supports.” George Washington – Speech Sept. 17, 1796 (source) Get the mug from Right Things

“Without a humble imitation of the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, we can never hope to be a happy nation.” George Washington

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” John Jay the first Supreme Court Justice (for those of you who didn’t know that)

“Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” – James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance“, 1785 *No, he isn’t criticizing Christianity as a religion or denoucing it. He is critisizing the “church” and the problems inerrant in an organized religion that breed a distortion of its true form. Many people who try to argue that the founding fathers were not Christians will misquote this and use it as part of their argument so be warned.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary; if angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” – James Madison (Federalist #51)

“It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentence toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus.” – Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, 1820 *Again, he isn’t critisizing the whole of Christianity as a religion or denoucning it. Jefferson, like Madison, is stating that he believes the teachings of Jesus have been corrupted by those that took up the mantle of the preaching the religion after his departure from this place. His problem is with the “church” not with Christianity. Many people who try and argue that the founding fathers were not Christians will use this quote out of context to try and prove their fallacious point.

“I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did.” — Benjamin Franklin, letter to his father, 1738

“I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works … I mean real good works … not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing … or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.”— Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII, p. 75 *As per Madison and Jefferson above, Franklin was criticizing the organized “church” for bastardizing Christianity rather than upholding its core teachings. He was not denouncing the religion itself as bad although some that would try to argue that we are not a nation founded on Christian ideals will try and use this quote to prove such. These people will quote only the first part “I wish it were more productive of good works” out of context of the rest of this statement.

“If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both there (England) and in New England.”— Benjamin Franklin

“In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Let…statesmen and patriots unite their endeavors to renovate the age by…educating their little boys and girls…and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” – Samuel Adams

“Only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation.” – John Jay, First Cheif Justice of the Supreme Court

“The United States of America were no longer Colonies. They were an independent nation of Christians.” – John Qunicy Adams

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

“He is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who set himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.” – John Witherspoon, member of the Continental Congress and clergyman

“The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of men.’ And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” – Benjamin Franklin

“Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be entrusted on any other foundation than religious principle, not any government secure which is not supported by moral habits…. Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.” – Daniel Webster

“The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scripture ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evil men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” – Noah Webster

“I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it.” – Benjamin Franklin, from “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion”, Nov. 20, 1728

“But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State.” – Thomas Jefferson (to S. Kercheval, 1810)

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.” – Thomas Jefferson (to Baron von Humboldt, 1813)

“On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” – Thomas Jefferson (to Carey, 1816)

“You have been instructed form your childhood in the knowledge of your lost state by nature; the absolute necessity of a change of heart, and an entire renovation of soul to the image of Jesus Christ; of salvation thro’ His meritorious righteousness only; and the indispensable necessity of personal holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” – Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress

“History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed in to political and economic decline.” – Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific during WWII

“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.” – Ronald Reagan

“I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am 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 Testaments.” – Benjamin Rush

“There is not a truth to be gathered form history more certain, or more momentous, than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both. Wherever religious liberty exists, it will, first or last, bring in and establish political liberty.” – Joseph Story, Congressman and Supreme Court Justice

“Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority for that law which is divine…far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.” – James Wilson (signatory of the Constitution)

“(T)he propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained” – George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789


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6 Responses to “What did the “Establishment of religion” mean in 1776”


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  6. oneway2day Says:

    Good Post!

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