Ky. Voices: Religion at core of nation's founding ideals


I read with interest the column by Lawrence Durr wherein he states that the United State was "meant to be a secular democracy."

With regard to the "democracy" issue, Benjamin Franklin said: "A democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch."

It was indeed the tyranny of the majority that was and remains the basis not for a secular democracy but rather for our constitutional republic.

The "doctrine of the separation of church and state," or what is often referred to as a wall between church and state, is based on a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists to assure them that the national government would not infringe upon their religious practices, precisely as our national government is currently doing with the Catholic health care entities. His letter to them ended with a prayer.

This letter is the basis for the claim by some that the founders' intent was to exclude God and religion from all of our public affairs, as opposed to a more limited view of the establishment clause. Evidence for the limited intent of the establishment clause is to be found in the Declaration of Independence as well as the events surrounding the ratification of the First Amendment.

Consider the climactic words to the Declaration of Independence, also written by Jefferson: "... And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

The words on the top of the Washington Monument declare: "Praise be to God."

John Adams famously observed: "Our country was made only for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other."

But perhaps the most compelling evidence of all is that within 24 hours of the ratification of the First Amendment, these same men who wrote the amendment declared Thanksgiving as a national religious holiday to thank "Almighty God" for military victory over the British.

Given that they had just written the amendment, it is impossible to believe that a clearly religious declaration was somehow excluded by it.

This unanimous resolution of the Continental Congress states in part: "For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to Him for Benefits received ... To take Schools and Seminaries of Education ... under His nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom. ..."

This was clearly not a secular declaration. The Continental Congress was presided over by George Washington, who kept a handwritten prayer journal. These are the handwritten words of the father of our country, who clearly did not intend that God would be removed from our public lives:

"Now I make it my earnest prayer that God would have you in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens and the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation."

Whereas I agree with Durr that I would not want anyone telling me what to believe or not believe, which church to attend, or if to attend at all, it is a matter of historical fact worth remembering that while the founders would not establish a particular religious doctrine, they were overwhelmingly religious, mostly Christian, and clearly intended God to play a major role not only in our personal lives but in government and its institutions as well.

Perhaps to some, this is the real inconvenient truth.