Skip to comments.Sarah Palin, the Secular Left and the National Day of Prayer
Posted on 04/20/2010 5:19:02 PM PDT by Josh Painter
We found an interesting post on Palin, Religion & Left Wing Dogma at the blog, Wolf Howling:
Steve Benen writing at Washington Monthly has his panties in a bunch. Apparently, he can't believe that Sarah Palin, actually believes that there was a role for religion within the outer ambit of the state at the time of our nations founding.Benen's arguments are full of more holes than Albert Hall, as the Wolf Howling post's author points out:
What is astounding here is the degree of Mr. Benen's historical ignorance:
National days of prayer are indeed part of the rich history of this nation, as the author says. The first one was proclaimed by the Continental Congress in 1775, and it was observed through the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783. In a speech before the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin declared to those assembled:There was no inherent tension between the First Amendment and Christianity at the time of the founding. Indeed, no single document demonstrates just how much a generic form of Christianity was intertwined with our government at our founding than does the Declaration of Independence, composed by Thomas Jefferson and signed by all the members of the Second Continental Congress on 4 July, 1776:[...]Our founding fathers saw our government as fully effectuating Judeo-Christian religious truths arising out of the Enlightenment. History shows that the trappings and spirit of a generic Christianity permeated the public sphere at the time of the founding and for over a century and a half thereafter.
True, our founding fathers, fifteen years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, passed the First Amendment, providing in relevant part:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .Thomas Jefferson and James Madison played pivotal roles in the drafting of the First Amendment. Eleven years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Thomas Jefferson coined the term "a wall of separation between church and state" in private correspondence.
Yet none of the founders, including Jefferson during his two terms as President, did anything in the slightest to impose radical secularism on America. They did nothing to rip the trappings of Christianity from the public sphere, nor to suggest that those that existed were in violation of the First Amendment. To the contrary, prayers then (and still today) opened Congress. Christianity was an essential part of public school curriculum. Christmas and Easter were celebrated in the public and private sphere. And the federal, state and local governments enacted laws supporting religion and imposing moral prohibitions based on the Judeo-Christian ethic.
To understand how all of this fits together at the time of our founding, one must note that our nation was in large measure founded by deeply religious people escaping institutionalized religious persecution and, further, that Europe was not then long from a series brutal and bloody religious wars that culminated in the Enlightenment. With those truths firmly in mind, Jefferson was virulently opposed to the use of public funds in support of any particular religion and as equally opposed to involving the state in settling religious disputes by favoring one religion or sect over another. Those were the subjects that animated the First Amendment and were the context to Jefferson's phrase, "separation between Church and State."
The historical context was further explained in a speech by James Buckley, the brother of William Buckley:For most of our history, the First Amendments provision prohibiting the establishment of religion was understood to do no more than forbid the federal governments preferential treatment of a particular faith. But while the First Amendments purpose was to protect religion and the freedom of conscience from governmental interference, as Thomas Cooley noted in his 1871 treatise on Constitutional Limitations, the Framers considered it entirely appropriate for government to foster religious worship and religious instruction, as conservators of the public morals and values, if not indispensable, assistants to the preservation of the public order. As that perceptive observer of the American scene, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it, while the law allows the American people to do everything, there are things which religion prevents them from imagining and forbids them to dare.
And so it is not surprising that the Congress that adopted the First Amendment also reenacted the provision of the Northwest Ordinance which declares that Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged; and early Congresses proceeded to make grants of land to serve religious purposes and to fund sectarian education among the Indians.
In sum, as understood by those who wrote it, the First Amendment did not forbid the government from being biased in favor of religion as such so long as it championed none. . . .
God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.George Washington proclaimed a day of public thanksgiving and prayer in 1795, and President John Adams declared May 9, 1798 as "a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer," during which citizens of all faiths were asked to pray "that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it". Madison, after having proclaimed a day of prayer, later changed his mind and said he didn't consider such proclamations appropriate. His good friend Thomas Jefferson also opposed declarations of national days of prayer.
But Jefferson's phrase, "a wall of separation between Church & State," frequently quoted by secularists in their arguments, is one of the most misunderstood quotes in the history of the United States. It is nearly always quoted out of context, which is why is it nearly always misinterpreted. The Danbury Baptists, a religious minority in Connecticut, wrote to Jefferson in 1801 to express their concerns that they might suffer religious discrimination should an official state religion be adopted. Seeking to reassure the Baptists, Jefferson replied in a letter to them in 1802:
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.Jefferson's personal opinion was a political one, and the phrase "separation of Church & State" does not appear in the Constitution, which restricts Congress from establishing a state religion and preventing American citizens from believing and worshiping freely.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Th Jefferson Jan. 1. 1802.
In 1863, the great President Abraham Lincoln issued the following proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America.In 1952, a bill proclaiming an annual National Day of Prayer was unanimously passed by both houses of congress, and President Truman signed it into law. It required the President to select a day for national prayer each year. In 1988, Congress fixed the annual National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May. It was signed into law by President Reagan, who said:
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; 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.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? 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.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
"On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for His blessing."The tradition of the National Day of Prayer as a multi-faith observance recognizing the diversity of religious faith in the nation has been honored by each president since Reagan.
But in 2010, United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin Barbara Crabb, a Jimmy Carter appointee, decided that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendments prohibition on government endorsement of religion. Joe Carter commented:
What is unfortunate is the shoddy legal reasoning of the opinion [PDF], which acknowledges the history of national calls to prayer and yet still attempts to claim that the decrees by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other presidents have always been unconstitutional.Americans of faith are determined not to let this stand without a fight:
As law professor Eugene Volokh says, I find this hard to reconcile with the logic of Marsh v. Chambers (1983), which upheld legislative prayers on the grounds that they go back to the founding of the nation; official proclamations of days of prayer, thanksgiving, and even fasting are just as firmly rooted. The opinion tries to distinguish those proclamations from the National Day of Prayer, but I dont see the distinctions as having constitutional significance.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF) and Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) are urging President Obama to appeal federal judge Barbara Crabbs decision in Wisconsin that struck down a federal statute that sets a day for the National Day of Prayer. The order does not affect presidential prayer proclamations and will not go into effect unless the decision still stands after all appeals are exhausted in the case.Indeed. As John Adams, in a letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, wrote:
Shirley Dobson, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and wife of Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson, said Since the days of our Founding Fathers, the government has protected and encouraged public prayer and other expressions of dependence on the Almighty. This is a concerted effort by a small but determined number of people who have tried to prohibit all references to the Creator in the public square, whether it be the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance, or the simple act of corporate prayer this is unconscionable for a free society.
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."In 1835, the noted French historian Alexis de Tocqueville traveled America an recorded his observations in Democracy in America:
"Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions...I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation, and to every rank of society."How times have changed, and not for the better. De Tocqueville would not recognize the America of 2010, not because of the technical advances that have occurred over the 175 years, but sadly due to the decline in the nation's greatness. Ironically, it was de Tocqueville who warned:
"Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic which they set forth in glowing colors than in the monarchy which they attack; and it is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?"Though often attributed to de Tocqueville, the following anonymous quote, we believe, is worth serious consideration by those who would seek to remove from America that which great leaders throughout our nation's history have affirmed:
"America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."Sarah Palin and many other American patriots understand this. If only the secularists, blinded by their hatred of religion, had such common sense.
Howling Wolf is an idiot, but properly named.
Over the weekend, appearing at an evangelical Christian women's conference in Louisville, Sarah Palin rejected the very idea of separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of American democracy. . . .
She denounced this week's Wisconsin federal court ruling that government observance of a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional -- which the crowd joined in booing. She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that "God should be separated from the state."
Palin added that she was outraged when President Obama said that "America isn't a Christian nation."
The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That's backwards -- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days.
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I guess he's forgotten about President Nixon's "National Day of Prayer, on April 19, 1970," to cite just one example.
Oh, and BTW, Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. News that I'm sure would shock, Howling Wolf.
Please go back and read the article again. The quotes you cited are NOT Wolf Howling’s, but rather those of a leftist (Steve Benen) that were originally published by the “progressive” Washington Monthly. Wolf was only quoting them so he could debunk them.
Wolf’s on OUR side!
It linked to Wolf - so make that Steve Benen is an idiot and a complete troll.
Wolf linked Benen, and I linked Wolf.
Thanks for the ping, Onyx! Josh - tremendous post - thank you - no matter who is the idiot - we know Sarah Palin is totally RIGHT in her words and actions on this matter!
Thanks, Onyx for adding to the information about this subject.
America IS a nation founded on the Word of God as found in the Bible and on THE LIVING Word of God, Jesus Christ!