(Paulding County, Georgia) Senator Bill Heath of District 31 representing Bartow, Haralson, Polk, and a part of Paulding County discusses our nations’ Christian heritage.
“Weeks ago we celebrated Constitution Day by discussing the history of our Founding Fathers and the creation of our great nation. Pilgrims who came to the new world were Christians seeking freedom from religious persecution, not freedom from religion. When our Founding Fathers promised that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . .” they were not prohibiting government from participating in religion – rather, they were protecting citizens from infringement upon their religion, the very reason they left their homeland.
The minds and hearts of our nation’s framers were unarguably rooted in Christian thought and guided by biblical principles. 27 of the 56 individuals who signed The Declaration of Independence held seminary degrees. 52 were active members of their church. In 1777, the Continental Congress voted to spend $300,000 to purchase bibles for distribution throughout the 13 colonies. In 1782, the United States Congress declared, “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”
Professor Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard University’s School of Divinity notes that our nation’s first universities (with special emphasis on those in the New England area) stressed the importance of studying the Hebrew language. The study of Hebrew among Christians was paramount during the 15th century but fell by the way side following the Protestant Reformation. Colonists revived the study, making it a vital part of the curriculum of early American colleges and universities. Additionally, of the first 108 universities founded in America, all but two were Christian institutions. In fact, our nation’s first and most prestigious university, Harvard, listed the following in their student handbook as Rule #1:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”
At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed the plan to divide the central government into three branches: a) JUDICIAL, b) LEGISLATIVE, and c) EXECUTIVE. He discovered this model of government in Isaiah 33:22:
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us.” (Isaiah 33:22)
The book of Exodus, Chapter 18 Verse 21, provides instruction for the republic form of government we have in America. It also gives guidelines for our different levels of government, Federal, State and local. The following verse states the basis for the 10th Amendment to our Constitution.
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:21)
“And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.” (Exodus 18:22)
Even the notion of tax exemption of churches came from the Bible in Ezra 7:24:
“Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God; it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.” (Ezra 7:24)
After our nation’s new government went into effect on March 4, 1789, church services were commonly reported to have been held in the Supreme Court, the Treasury, the House of Representatives, and other various locations on Capitol Hill. These do not seem like men trying to disavow Christianity from their nation’s beliefs. Rather, they practiced openly in the hallowed halls of our nation’s government,” said Heath.
Senator Heath went on to say, “On November 26, 1789, by congressional resolution and proclamation by President George Washington, our first official Thanksgiving Day was celebrated to give “thanks” for our new Constitution. The official Proclamation of Thanksgiving and Prayer, called on America “to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread all over the Earth.” It doesn’t seem to me like our Founding Fathers were trying to separate themselves from religion or Christianity at all. It appears they meant to create a country where someone would not be afraid of persecution for their religious beliefs.
During the Constitutional Convention, Christianity remained a cornerstone in the creation of our nation’s greatest code–our Constitution. As we discussed weeks ago, Benjamin Franklin, often thought to be a deist, petitioned the assembly to include a daily chaplain during the Constitutional Convention. Franklin called for God’s intervention in their hearts and minds as they dealt with the weighty, heated nature of the task at hand. Franklin even went so far as to address the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787 with the following sentiment:
“I have lived. Sir, a long time, 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 possible that an empire can rise without His aid? “
Even our third president, Thomas Jefferson, ordered the extension of the 1787 Act of Congress that designated areas of Federal land “for the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren Missionaries for civilizing of the Indians and promoting Christianity”. He ordered the same governmental support of Christianity to the Wyandotte and Cherokee Indians. As President, Jefferson ordered that federal land be used for “promoting Christianity.” Using Federal land to promote religion doesn’t exactly uphold the idea of separation of church and state that many protest to be true these days. Our Founding Fathers fought for freedom OF religion, not FROM religion.”
“No other nation has ever been founded upon the Godly principles that this nation was founded upon. And no other nation has enjoyed the peace and blessings enjoyed by our nation for such a long period. If we are to continue to live in a land as richly blessed as this, we must resist the attacks brought on our values by those who wish to destroy them.”