Benjamin Franklin once declared, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As a nation becomes more corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters." In nineteen sixty-two the Supreme Court of the United States pronounced that a prayer recited in the public school was abusing our freedoms . In the court's opinion this was an act in violation to the first amendment, which calls for "a separation of church and state.'' This ruling was later extended to include the use of the Bible as well. A Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, put it in this often quoted statement "Neither a state or the Federal government can set up a church. Nor can pass laws that aid one religion, all religions, or prefer one religion over another. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adapt to teach or practice religion." (686)
This issue,"separation of church and state," is a cloudy topic in the eyes of the modern world, but in reality the only gray clouds are primarily a result of ignorance of the original intent of the Founding Fathers who put the phrase in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
From the beginning of American government, state and legal papers, such as the Northwest Ordinance and state constitutions, were threaded with religion. In addition, many of the more eminent men who signed the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other important documents clarified their intent. John Witherspoon, as quoted by David Barton in The Works of John Witherspoon, said: " What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American Liberty, who is most sincere and active in proclaiming true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind, Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not [or do not hesitate] to call him an enemy to his country." George Washington, as quoted in The Real George Washington, stated: " Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."(588) From these quotes we see what the founders thought, but were their actions different from their intents? Let's take a closer look into the past.
In the summer of seventeen eighty-nine, the wording of the first Amendment was being pounded out. It finally passed the House of Representatives on the twenty-fourth of September. On the very next day, the very same House of Representatives called on George Washington to issue a Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving (the origin of our current legal holiday). This was Washington's ...