Posted 24 November 2005 - 01:03 PM
One week after the passage of the Bill of Rights in 1789, President George Washington issued the first American proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. That proclamation declared:
Whereas 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 – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to 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 form of government for their safety and happiness" ...
Washington's proclamation had nothing to do with November or the Pilgrims. It was to acknowledge God's inspiration in the drafting of the Constitution:
... for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us ...
In 1863, as the Civil War ravaged the nation, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
President Ulysses S. Grant noted in his 1870 proclamation:
Whereas it behooves a people sensible of their dependence on the Almighty publicly and collectively to acknowledge their gratitude for His favors and mercies and humbly to beseech for their continuance ...
President Woodrow Wilson prefaced his 1918 Thanksgiving proclamation by noting:
It has long been our custom to turn in the autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation.
And President Roosevelt's 1942 Thanksgiving proclamation opened with a quote from Psalms 92:1:
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, o Most High ...
Thanksgiving is one of those religious holidays that has withstood a full frontal assault from people like Michael Newdow or American Civil Liberties Union liberals.
That Thanksgiving is "religious" is beyond question. Newdow's current argument before the courts is that "In God We Trust" is an unacceptable endorsement of religion, whereas Thanksgiving Day is an official expression of religion, by Act of Congress, supported by centuries of presidential proclamations. And not just any religion, but the Almighty God quoted by Franklin Roosevelt from Psalms 92:1.
It is for that reason, I believe, that religious exclusionists like the ACLU have maintained such a "hands-off" approach to what is a national expression of religious worship to the Creator God of the Bible. That case could undo decades of legal rulings about the role of religion in American life.
The entire argument that the Second Amendment guarantees freedom of religion was really intended to mean freedom from religion rises and falls on the intention of the Framers of the Bill of Rights. The first presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving ever issued was to acknowledge God's participation in the development and ratification of the very Bill of Rights the ACLU now claims intentionally excludes God from public life.
Taking on the Thanksgiving Day holiday with the argument the Framers intended to stifle public expressions of religious worship would take some pretty fancy historical gymnastics to accomplish. They know that, so they leave it alone.
This year, I am thankful that the American practice of setting aside one day for prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God has survived the current legal onslaught. God has heard our prayers of thanksgiving for 200 years and for 200 years, America has been the most abundantly blessed nation on the face of the Earth.
I pray you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with plenty to be thankful for. May God continue to bless each of you, and may God bless America.
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