It’s a commonly held belief today that government and religion should have absolutely no comingling. This view is popular, not because it has precedence in the history and founding of our nation, but because the increased secularization of our culture is demanding to be loosed from the shackles of Christian virtue.
In the First Amendment we read that:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
While this article is regularly interpreted today as to erect an unassailable wall between the two (government and religion), we see that isn’t what the Founders had in mind by virtue of the fact that there existed established State churches as late as 1833, with Massachusetts being the last one.
Those churches were disestablished, not due to a newfound devotion for secular thought, but because of the diversification of religious practice among the people.
And if that doesn’t convince you that the Founders were perfectly fine with religion playing a role in government, read on!
Below is the Thanksgiving Proclamation made by our first President, George Washington, on October 3rd, 1789:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—
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; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—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—
To protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.George Washington
Source: “Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017,
And that’s pretty much just the tip of the iceberg when considering the whole of what our Founding Fathers had to say on the importance of religion in the life of America.