Christianity in Government

Copyright MMII by Inspired Idea All Rights Reserved

No founding father sought to remove Christianity from society; instead, they encouraged it through governmental and personal actions.

Continental Congress relieved Bible shortage
On Sept. 11, 1777 Continental Congress approved the importation of 20,000 copies of the Holy Bible, in response to the shortage caused by the Revolutionary War. "The use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great that your committee refers the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the Committee recommends that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different parts of the States of the Union. Whereupon it was resolved accordingly to direct said Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 copies of the Bible."

Rulers should promote respect for God
Henry Laurens stated, "I had the honor of being one who framed that Constitution. In order effectually to accomplish these great ends set forth in the Constitution, it is especially the duty of those who bear rule to promote and encourage respect for God and virtue and to discourage every degree of vice and immorality." This parallels what John Mayhew preached on Romans 13:3-4 "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that does evil."

Signers of Constitution founded Bible societies
Several signers of the Constitution founded Bible societies and publicly practiced their Christian faith. Charles Pinckney and John Langdon were founders of the American Bible Society. James McHenry was a founder of the Baltimore Bible Society. Rufus King helped found a Bible society for Anglicans. Abraham Baldwin was renown for his piety and devotion to his duties as a chaplain in the army during the War of Independence. James Wilson and William Paterson had prayer over juries as U. S. Supreme Court Justices. Roger Sherman, William Samuel Johnson, John Dickinson, and Jacob Broom were Christian theological authors.

The Bible and basic Christian doctrines were essential to early American government. The Bible was the basis for laws. Christian doctrines such as making covenants (contracts, like the Constitution) between people, and all people being created equally and to be judged equally by the same Law-Giver were very important.

The New Testament was the basis of our rights as colonists
Samuel Adams, leader of the Sons of Liberty and signer of the Declaration of Independence wrote in the "Rights of Colonists" (1772) that "The rights of the colonists as Christians... may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament." Many of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence are found in this report.

A third of the Founding Fathers writings were Bible quotations
Out of 15,000 samples of the founding fathers' writings between the years 1760 -1805, 3,000 were direct quotations. Professor Donald Lutz of the University of Houston found 34% of the direct quotes were Bible verses. The next two main sources were Baron Charles Montesquieu at 8.3% and Sir William Blackstone, who wrote a famous law book, at 7.9%. Thus, the founders directly quoted the Bible three times more than any other source.

Signers based their independence upon their God-given rights
Those who signed the Declaration of Independence agreed that "We hold these truths...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights... appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world... And for the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence..."

"Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people"

On October 11, 1798, President John Adams told the militia of Massachusetts, "We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."

States acknowledge God
Eleven of the first 13 States required faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible as qualification for holding public office. William Samuel Johnson, signer of the Constitution, argued that "Considerations of morality" belonged only "to the states". The constitutions of each of the 50 States acknowledge and call upon the Providence of God for the blessings of freedom.

On November 1, 1777 the Continental Congress issued its first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving to "Almighty God" for the "confession of their manifold sins," and to pray for their leaders and for prosperity.

Continental Congress issued first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving (part 1)
The Continental Congress’ first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving: "Forasmuch 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 and to implore such further blessing as they stand in need of; and it having pleased Him in His abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of His common Providence... to smile upon us as in the prosecution of a just necessary war for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties. ...It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth day of December next, for the solemn thanksgiving and praise:" And this was just the first of many such proclamations.

Continental Congress called for national repentance of sins (part 2)
"... That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, though the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance;"

Continental Congress called for national prayer for government and military leaders (part 3)
"That it may please Him graciously to afford His blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace;"

Continental Congress called for national prayer for commerce and education (part 4)
"That it may please Him, to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people, and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take school and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth 'in righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.'"

The Chiefs of the Delaware Indian tribe brought three youths to General Washington to be trained in American schools. Washington told them: "Brothers: I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us. I am sure Congress will open the Arms of love to them, and will look upon them as their own Children, and will have them educated accordingly. This is a great mark of your confidence and of your desire to preserve the friendship between the Two Nations to the end of time, and to become One people with your Brethren of the United States. ...You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it. ...And I pray God He may make your Nation wise and strong."

Bible and Christian religion to be taught in public schools
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and "father of public schools," Dr. Benjamin Rush stated, "Let the children... be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education. The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effectual means of extirpating \[removing\] Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools. The Bible should be read at our schools in preference to all other books."

Northwest Ordinance decreed religion and morality to be taught in public schools
In 1787 Congress debated regulations for settling the new northwestern lands, resulting in the Northwest Ordinance. Its third article states, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Congress passed the same ordinance again and George Washington signed it into law in 1789 during the same time period the First Amendment was being debated. There was no objection to government support of religious education according to those debating the First Amendment. For Ohio to become a state, Thomas Jefferson wrote on April 30, 1802 that it should "not be repugnant to the \[Northwest\] Ordinance."

First Amendment prohibited establishment of one Christian denomination
George Mason proposed the First Amendment be worded, "All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others." Roger Sherman was also on the committee which decided the wording of the First Amendment. He opposed the First Amendment at first, since Congress had no authority delegated from the Constitution in such areas, he deemed it unnecessary. The final wording came from Fisher Ames, "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."

Joseph Story was the son of one of the Boston Tea Party "Indians", a US Representative from 1808 to 1809, and was appointed as a Justice on the US Supreme Court in 1811 by President James Madison. In his work, "A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States" (1840), Justice Joseph Story, stated: "We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment (First Amendment) to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution). ...The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government."


Term Definition
avarice an insatiable desire of gaining and possessing wealth; covetousness and greediness
Christian someone who believes and confesses Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, physically died for his/her sins, was buried, rose again the third day according to the scriptures, and was seen by hundreds after His resurrection
Continental Congress a meeting of the American leaders before and during the War of Independence
ecclesiastical church related
framed formed by thoughts and words
gallantry besides bravery, it could also mean showy appearance with a mere pretension to love
hierarchy government of the Christian church
ordinance a rule established by authority
proclamation official notice given to the public
sin voluntary disobedience to God’s commands