Many people today fail to realize the importance that the Founding Fathers felt religion played in the structure of the American Civilization that they hoped would emerge as the first free people of modern times. They felt that religion would be as important to us today, as it was to them then.
In 1787, the same year that the Constitution was written and approved by congress, they passed the Northwest Ordinance, which emphasized the essential need to teach religion and Morality in schools. Here is how they worded it:
"Article 3: religion, Morality, and Knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encourage."
George Washington, in his farewell address said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion...Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."
In order to avoid divisive religious teachings, Jefferson wrote a bill for Establishing Elementary Schools in Virginia that made religion a unifying cultural adhesive. It stated, "No religious reading, instruction, or exercise shall be prescribed or practiced inconsistent with any religious sect or denomination." So, the religious tenets in public schools would have been what was universally accepted by all faiths and fundamental in their premises.
Benjamin Franklin gave five fundamental points to be taught in the schools.
1. There is a Creator who made all things and mankind should recognize and worship Him.
2. The Creator revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living that distinguishes right from wrong.
3. The Creator will hold us accountable for how we treat each other.
4. All mankind live beyond this life.
5. In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
The Founders often referred to these five fundamentals as the religion of America. Samuel Adams said that is group of basic beliefs constitute 'the religion of America and is the religion of all mankind." John Adams called these tenets the general principles on which the American Civilization was founded. America became great, because America was good. When America is no longer good then we can expect that the nation will cease to be great.
(The 28 Principles of Liberty are adapted from the book "The 5000 Year Leap" by W. Cleon Skousen. This article is also published at www.Myspace.com/angelsings www.LDSFreemen.com and the Cape Fair Cryer newspaper in Missouri.)
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