Presidents Day is a good time to reflect on some of the great things chief executives have said about separation of church and state and religious freedom.
The year was 1832, and a cholera epidemic was ravaging the United States.
Doctors of the day were powerless to stop the disease. As its depredations spread, some desperate members of Congress decided that only divine intervention could save the country. They proposed an official day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.
President Andrew Jackson was not impressed. Jackson announced that if Congress were to pass such a resolution, he would not sign it into law.
Tomorrow several conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives plan to hold a public reading of the Aitken Bible on the East Front Lawn of the Capitol. Among the participants will be U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who once famously quizzed AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn about hell during a congressional hearing.
When most people consider the qualities they want in a president, things like the ability to manage the economy, forge political compromises and tend to foreign policy come to mind.
But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has an additional qualification: He believes it’s absolutely essential that the president be a believer who prays regularly.
Editor's Note: Today's blog is a re-publication of an item that originally appeared on Presidents' Day 2012.
Today is Presidents’ Day. Celebrate by reading some great presidential classics of religious liberty!
Start with George Washington’s letter to Touro Synagogue, one of the most succinct statements ever issued about religious liberty.
In a move straight out of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s playbook, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad issued an official proclamation instructing citizens to pray and repent and presided over a revival event on the grounds of the state capitol.
In April, Branstad signed the proclamation urging everyone in the state of Iowa to repent and pray daily. He also invited them to join in a day of prayer, fasting and repentance on July 14 on the grounds of the state capitol.
In high school, I had a history teacher who summed up George Washington’s importance to early Americans this way: “There was God and then there was George Washington” in the minds of the people, he said.
That seems like a reasonable representation of how many contemporaries likely viewed our nation’s first president. But one could easily wonder what Washington, himself, thought about God. The Religious Right thinks it has the answer, and as usual it’s far removed from reality.
Editor’s Note: Today is the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer. “The Wall of Separation” is pleased to offer this guest post by James C. Nelson, a retired justice of the Montana Supreme Court. Nelson was appointed to the court by Gov. Marc Racicot in 1993 and was reelected to the position three times, serving until his retirement in 2013.
I’m not a lawyer, but let me give you a little free legal advice anyway: It’s never a good idea to defy a federal judge’s ruling.