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How to Beat the ACLU at Its Own Game

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The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop Cobb County, Georgia, from opening its meetings with prayers that mention Jesus or use other “sectarian” references, claiming the invocations represent government favoritism of Christianity. The simple solution is for any Christian who is called on to open a meeting with prayer to end it with these simple words: “We make this prayer in the Year of our Lord 2008,” or whatever the year is at the time. There is no way the ACLU or the courts can object on constitutional grounds because “Year of our Lord” is part of the Constitution. You can read it just above George Washington’s signature. This is an obvious reference to Jesus because of the use of “Lord” and the dating from the time of Jesus’ birth which is also part of the Constitution: “one thousand, seven hundred and eighty seven.” This date only has significance in relation to the birth of Jesus Christ. This practice would mute the claim that the United States Government can’t favor Christianity since Jesus is the centerpiece of Christianity, and the Constitution acknowledges this by its recognition of anno domini, A.D., “the year of our Lord.” It’s a logical step to reason that if the Constitution makes a reference to Jesus, even if indirectly, how is it possible that using Jesus’ name at a government meeting, which claims to follow the Constitution, is unconstitutional?

Then there is the problem of historical precedent. On March 16, 1776, “by order of Congress” a “day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” where people of the nation were called on to “acknowledge the over ruling providence of God” and bewail their “manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness” (see here).[1]

Congress set aside December 18, 1777 as a day of thanksgiving so the American people “may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor”[2] and on which they might “join the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.” Congress also recommended that Americans petition God “to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consists in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (see here).[3]

The first order of business of the first United States Congress was to appoint chaplains. The Right Reverend Bishop Samuel Provost and the Reverend William Linn became paid chaplains of the Senate and House respectively. Since then, both the Senate and the House have continued regularly to open their sessions with prayer. Nearly all of the fifty states make some provision in their meetings for opening prayers or devotions from guest chaplains. Few if any saw this as a violation of the First Amendment since the provision came from those who drafted the Constitution.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office with his hand on an open Bible. After taking the oath, he added, “I swear, so help me God.” Following Washington’s example, presidents still invoke God’s name in their swearing-in ceremony.[4] The inauguration was followed by “divine services” held in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York, “performed by the Chaplain of Congress.”[5] The first Congress that convened after the adoption of the Constitution requested of the President that the people of the United States observe a day of thanksgiving and prayer:

That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.

After the resolution’s adoption, Washington then issued a proclamation setting aside November 26, 1789, as a national day of thanksgiving, calling everyone to “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”[6]

The ACLU does not have a constitutional, historical, or logical case to stop sectarian prayers. Organizations like the ACLU an Americans United for Separation of Church and State depend on the ignorance of the majority of the American people to make their anti-Christian propaganda believable.

Footnotes:
[1]
Original document can be viewed at www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/f0404s.jpg
[2] In another context, “divine benefactor” would be viewed as a deist ascription to an unnamed deity. It’s obvious that in this context the Christian God is in view.
[3] A copy of the original document can be viewed at www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/vc006494.jpg
[4] Richard G. Hutcheson, Jr., God in the White House: How Religion Has Changed the Modern Presidency (New York: Macmillan, 1988), 37.
[5] Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, one-volume ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 87.
[6]
Quoted in Stokes and Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, 87.

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