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November 26, 2008


Wow. Can we imagine such being said today?

The title is a misnomer. The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies. The United States (referred to as the U.S. in the title) was formed with the ratification of the United States Constitution in which the First Amendment guarantees against this kind of religious proclamation being made by the secular United State government.

Nice try though.

@AaronSTL, don't forget this line from the Declaration of Independence:

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled..."


The United States is governed by its Constitution, not it's Declaration of Independence. No matter how one referred to the colonies the actual United States federal government was established by the United States Constituiton. Since then we the people have been protected against declarations of government religious preference by the First Amendment.

Just wondering how Lincoln's Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863 (some 72 years or so after the ratification of the Bill of Rights) comports with present day assertions that the "First Amendment guarantees against this kind of religious proclamation being made by the secular United State government." Lincoln uses the following phrases, "watchful providence of Almighty God", "gracious gifts of the Most High God", "our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens", "offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him", "commend to His tender care", "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand", "consistent with the Divine purposes", and "in the year of our Lord."

Just curious.

Those parts of Lincoln's Proclamation were an infringement of the First Amendment Rights of every U.S. citizen.

I'm curious of his motivations to use such language since he was not himself a religious man. Perhaps he was trying to rally the union?


Don’t forget FDR: Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 1938

"Thus from our earliest recorded history, Americans have thanked God for their blessings. In our deepest natures, in our very souls, we, like all mankind since the earliest origin of mankind, turn to God in time of trouble and in time of happiness. "In God We Trust."

Actually, the use of those words were not an infringement of any US citizens 1st Amendment rights.

The use of those words were because Lincoln was a religious man who believed in God. If you read the speeches he gave before, during, and after the Civil War it is obvious he was doing more than trying to "rally the union."

@AaronSTL, your original assertion was that the post title was wrong in referring to the U.S. I'm just pointing out that this is factually wrong.
The United States of America preexisted the second constitution of 1787. Although the Continental Congress began with 3 Presidents of "the Continental Congress as The United Colonies of America," Henry Laurens was the second of 4 Presidents of "the Continental Congress of the United States of America." Subsequently, there were 10 Presidents of "the United States In Congress Assembled." And of course this was followed by the 43 (and counting) Presidents of the United States under the current United States Constitution.
As to the assertion that the current Constitution would prohibit such a proclamation, I refer you to the proclamations of George Washington (New York, 3 October 1789, "By the President of the United States of America: a Proclamation") and Abraham Lincoln (Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863).
As President George W. Bush said in his proclamation just 5 days ago (Thanksgiving Day, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America), "Our Nation's first President, George Washington, stated in the first Thanksgiving proclamation that 'It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.' While in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, asking God to heal our wounds and restore our country."

Point taken on the history of the country, Mark. Thank you for the clarification.

I do think though, the Constitutional First Amendment protects us from governmental religious preference even though some presidents have made religious statements. Something can be an infringement of someone's rights even if it goes unchallenged.

Yes, something can be an infringement of someone's rights even if it goes unchallenged. Though, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude that the establishment and free exercise portions of the First Amendment were interpreted in a different way by Lincoln (and others...including the authors of the amendment) than it is now.


Do U.S. Presidents not have the freedom of religious expression? Expression here defined as the making of religious statements or statements referring to God. A U.S. President making a statement does not infringe upon your right as a citizen.

The U.S. Government was not establishing a national religion during these great proclamations. These men were expressing personal views about themselves and their country.

You may disagree with their statements, but not their ‘right’ to say them.

> Congress shall make no law
> respecting an establishment of
> religion, or prohibiting the free
> exercise thereof; ...

A presidential proclamation is not Congress doing anything.

Where's the violation?

Well, take a look at the 1st Amendment:

"CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The President is part of the Executive branch and not part of Congress so the 1st Amendment does not apply to presidential speeches. Ancillary to that is the fact that a presidential speech is not an enactment of law.

Hi Kevin,

Every American has the right to freedom of religious epression. I may be mistaken but I believe a proclamation is an official announcement which is different than one expressing their personal beliefs. Any religious proclamation is de facto a preference made toward that religion.

Well, the post above mine was posted as I was writing mine so I did not see it!! It says the same thing!

Challenged or unchallenged, infringed or uninfringed, fortunately what we have left is a beautifully spoken declairation of adoration towards God which sits boldly in our heritage. May Gods infinite goodness shine brightly upon our nation.

Isn't it sad that if as a teacher today in a public school you were to read these words straight out of the mouth of actual history you would probably lose your job or be suspended. And we wonder where our cultural amnesia comes from.

I wonder if our cultural amnesia comes from the consistent drumbeat of Marxian thought--in our public schools and of academia-- in everything besides economics.
The last domino to fall will be the economic one, and that one is currently teetering...

"I do think though, the Constitutional First Amendment protects us from governmental religious preference even though some presidents have made religious statements."

Theory is just that a theory. Some folks like theories more than the truth itself. The truth is that the first amendment prevents government from passing laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. Expression of personal belief is a free exercise of religion and if what you, AaronSTL say is true, then the first amendment is self contradictory as it prohibits the free exercise of religion at its foundation. It makes the constitution and its amendments complete nonsense.

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