Founding Fathers


[A recent issue of the _Sons of the American Revolution Magazine_ included a column by the Chaplain General calling for increasing Christian involvement in the U.S. government. The article concluded:"Compatriots, by inattention or by silence we allow a small but vocal minority to rob future generations of Americans of this precious marriage of Biblical religion and our civil government. To do so would be to forfeit the inalienable human rights of life, liberty, and property, granted by our Creator. As good soldiers of Christ, and in the 'Spirit of 1776', let us hasten to arms"Following is the text of my letter to the editor. It is reproduced here as Setians may find the quotations useful in other situations.]

* * * September 1, 1991Mr. Winston C. Williams, Editor THE SAR MAGAZINE * *

Dear Mr. Williams:
While I respect SAR Chaplain General Paul Butler's personal enthusiasm for his Christian faith, as expressed in his "Chaplain's Call" column for the Summer 1991 issue, I am surprised and offended that he should insist that Christianity be enthroned as an American "state religion" - and that he presumes to label all who defend the Constitutional separation of church and state as "robbers" against whom "let us hasten to arms".As a Society sensitive to the intentions and actions of the Founding Fathers, perhaps we should refresh ourselves as to their actual points of view on the issue of religion:Most importantly, of course, the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbade Congress to create or in any way provide for an establishment of religion. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a motion to pray collectively was voted down. Benjamin Franklin noted that there were only two or three besides himself who wanted to open with prayers. Ironically Franklin himself, during his time in England, had been a member of Sir Francis Dashwood's infamous Hell-Fire Club, summarized by Daniel Mannix as "an association dedicated to Black Magic, sexual orgies, and political conspiracies." Adds Mannix: "Franklin was able to meet the Hell-Fire Club on its own ground. As far as any abhorrence of the Black Mass went, Ben announced that he did not believe in the immortality of the soul and he considered evil permissible, since God had created all things and so had presumably created evil also. Even when he was an old man of 84, Franklin wrote to Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale, saying that he doubted the divinity of Christ although he believed in his moral teachings."George Washington, a professed Deist, refused either to take communion or to kneel in church. Pictures showing him kneeling at Valley Forge have nothing more than artists' imagination behind them. [Deists believe that God created the laws of nature but exercised no control over the subsequent evolution of those laws, including the appearance of humanity.]"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity," said John Adams, who became a Unitarian.

In 1802 Thomas Jefferson made the Founders' concept of the First Amendment even more explicit, writing that its intent was to build "a wall of separation between church and state", adding that "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." During the eight years of his Presidency, Jefferson refused to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation. "I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises," he explained in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Miller. Said James Madison: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."Nor did the Founding Fathers put "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency. "Under God" was added to the Pledge by an act of Congress in 1954, during the McCarthy era. "In God We Trust" began appearing on coins in 1864 and became the official motto of the United States only in 1956. [The motto conceived by the Founding Fathers was "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of Many, One).]If there is indeed a proper "call to arms" for the Sons of the American Revolution, may I suggest it be ever to the defense of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights - documents precious to Americans no matter what their personal preference concerning religion may be. Indeed I find myself wondering, with no disrespect to the person of Dr. Butler, why the S.A.R. feels it appropriate to "maintain an establishment of religion" in the form of a Chaplain's office at all.

Sincerely, Michael A. Aquino
cc- President General G.H. Brandau
(Circulation to national officers & committees requested)