- by John Albert Dummett Jr -
With the passing of the “Northwest Ordinance” the Founding Fathers had made it clear that it was of the utmost importance to teach religion and morality in the public schools. They did this to ensure that religion and morality would continue to be a major part of what it means to be a citizen of this nation.
Formal education in our young nation was to include three important subjects, Religion, Morality and Knowledge. The teaching of Religion was to give students an understanding about man’s origin and his relationship to the universe. Morality was taught to show people there was an absolute standard of behavior between right and wrong and finally, teaching knowledge, fostered intellectual awareness about the facts surrounding the inquiry into the Earth and Human sciences.
The teaching of religion in the schools was restricted to universal fundamentals. The Founding Fathers hoped to make the teaching of religion as a means to unify America culturally. The tenets to be taught in the schools had to be universally accepted by all faiths.
Benjamin Franklin described what he thought were the fundamental points of any sound religion. He believed in one God who created the universe, who ought to be worshiped. He also believed that the most acceptable service we could do for our Creator was in doing good for all of God’s children. To Franklin the soul of man was immortal and will be treated with justice in the next life based upon his conduct in this one. (Writings of Ben Franklin 10:84)
The Founding Fathers decided that five fundamentals were to be taught in the public schools.
1.There is a Creator who made all things and God should be worshiped for it.
2.God revealed a moral code of behavior that distinguished between right and wrong.
3.God holds man accountable for the way man treats others.
4.There is a life beyond this one.
5.Man will be judged in the next life based upon what he did in this one.
These Five Fundamentals were referred to by our Founding Fathers as the “Religion of America” and they were to be taught in the public schools along with morality and knowledge. Samuel Adams said, “These fundamental beliefs belong to all of the world’s faiths and could therefore be taught without being offensive to any sect or denomination” (Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, 3:23) Thomas Jefferson understood these beliefs to be the “principles in which God had united us all.” Even George Washington warned us that “of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Many in today’s society wrongfully believe that the Founding Fathers prescribed a clear separation of Church and State. What they actually wanted and envisioned was a system were the clergy would remain separated politically from the government but would provide a moral stability among the people which in turn would allow government to prosper. There was to be a separation of Church and State but not a separation of State and Religion.
The churches in early America perpetuated the social and political culture of the United States. It was the duty of the clergy to keep religious principles and moral values within the hearts of the American people because this was the way to ensure freedom and political security for the people. The greatest achievement of the Founding Fathers towards religion was to provide legal equality for all religions or no religion at all, and at the same time, it excluded the federal government from all the problems relating to religion and the Church. A national policy on religion would have caused a catastrophe had the government tried to establish a national policy on religion. To solve this problem, the First Amendment to the Constitution was penned. It states “Congress should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Instead of establishing a single religion that would encompass all of the States, the federal government left it up to the individual States to decide which religious denomination they would adhere to.
From the moment the First Amendment was enacted, any influence whatsoever from the federal government, in any religious matter, was supposed to be eliminated forever. Now there was a “Wall of Separation” between Church and State. However it was never intended that the individual States would have to exercise the same “hands off” attitude the federal government had to observe. The Supreme Court of the United States in recent years has clearly over stepped its authority by requiring the States to build the same wall between Church and State. The people have allowed the federal government to limit the most precious of all our rights and that is the right to combine religion and the American Institution of Freedom.
The Five Truths of Religion previously mentioned, provided the framework for the entire Constitution. Property rights, civil rights and the obligation of the people to support the Constitution in protecting their rights were based upon those five tenets.
Without religion a government of a free people will fail.
John Albert Dummett Jr is a Republican candidate for POTUS 2016 and a Constitution Club contributor.