Declaring myself neither saint nor scholar, I submit this missive countering Mr. Bucher (Feb. 8):
“And the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?” Benjamin Franklin, 1787, Motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention
Thomas Jefferson did indeed own a copy of the Koran. Possibly he used it to understand the terrorists of his time, when in 1801 he concluded the Barbary Pirates would only understand force, thus leading to that now famous stanza in the Marine Corp Hymn. His famous separation of church and state is found nowhere in the Constitution, being in a private letter to a Baptist convention. He saw no conflict of interest with the actual words, “Congress will make no Law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise there of,” in the First Amendment, when he, along with other founders, regularly attended church services in the chambers of the House of Representatives, as services were held in other government buildings including the Supreme Court and Treasury building. This practice carried on until well after the War Between the States, with clergy from all Christian denominations taking turns presiding.
John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Congress, on Jan. 10, 1797, with the Barbary Pirates. The quote attributed to him is in fact only the first 19 words of Article 11 of that treaty, which is an 86 word sentence. Quoted alone it loses its original intent. While by itself it does stand for a particular truth, it completely ignores the fact that the founders saw themselves as living in a Christian nation, governed by a secular government. John Adams was a self described church-going animal and a devout Christian. Scholars agree he would never knowingly sign anything to the contrary.
“It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.” John Adams, 1776, Thoughts on Government
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, 1798, Address to the Military
“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.” Thomas Jefferson, 1774, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18
The Founders, fearing a national religion, legislated religious tolerance for all, while publicly recognizing the Christian virtues by which this Republic, a representative government could not have come about or survived without.
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