On Thursday night, I spoke at the National Day of Prayer service in Alfordsville. I was thrilled to be asked to participate, because as the name implies, events were happening all over the country on the National Day of Prayer, and the day has a rich history.
Nationaldayofprayer.orggives a concise summary of that history. It says:
"Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln's proclamation of a day of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" in 1863.
"In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May."
As I prepared for Thursday night, it struck me that Jefferson, Washington, Madison and all the founding fathers agreed-as in, it wasn't even an issue of debate-that religion, virtue and morality needed to be part of the foundation of a strong republic.
Patrick Henry said, "Whether this [new government] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend on the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation."
John Adams said, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
James Madison said, "We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
Even Thomas Jefferson (who is perhaps quoted the most by those who believe in the separation of church and state because of the misinterpretation of a letter he wrote) worshipped in Charlottesville along with all the surrounding city denominations at the county courthouse.
Now that doesn't make it seem like he much cared for creating non-religious society!
Madison and Washington also based their beliefs on a Roman consulate named Cicero who wrote about a theory called "God's Natural Law".
The idea is that society had to be built on belief in a creator God. Natural law had to be part of the human law. If you tried to set up a society that violated God's laws, it wouldn't survive.
That, right there, is the comeback to people who say "you can't legislate morality." Truly, all legislation is based on morality.
Every law we make in Indiana can be traced back to at least one of the ten commandments, and usually back to one of just a few of them: don't murder, don't give false testimony and don't steal.
It was also interesting for me to find, while researching, that the Constitution was adopted in 1787. Also in that year, Congress approved the Northwest Ordinance. In the Northwest Ordinance, it says that the schools had the obligation to teach religion, morality and virtue as part of the public curriculum.
So the same legislature that approved our Constitution also wanted to make sure that religion was not only allowed in education, but mandated.
As I pointed out during a discussion which recently arose on my Facebook page on this issue, there are some very good history books that are available if you want to do more research.
Our founders were very specific on insisting the federal government have no power or control over religious freedom or religious institutions, but they were also very specific about the importance of teaching morality and basic religious principles that were consistent in all the Christian denominations in the schools.
The idea that the separation of church and state meant the government should be atheist or completely non-religious was completely foreign to any public thought for the first 160 years of our nation. Improper reference by the Supreme Court to European law in the 1950's was the start of our current misdirection.
I could keep going but I know there's only so much time in this short column. If you would like to further discuss the National Day of Prayer and its history, I'd love to speak with you. Just call my office at 317-232-9793 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.