Since 1962, when the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the case of Engel v. Vitale declaring it unconstitutional for one specific school, the Union Free School District No. 9 in Hyde Park, N.Y., to require an especially composed prayer, school districts and courts have acted in concert to go beyond that and eliminate all prayer and religious activity from school functions culminating in what some in the news media have called “a war on religion.”
This has happened in spite of the fact that the Constitution of the United States, in the First Amendment adopted on December 15, 1791, clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
When I was in grade school and high school, Feb. 22 was a national holiday commemorating the birthday of George Washington, one of the founding fathers and the first president of the United States of America.
On Oct. 3, 1789, President Washington issued a proclamation in which he declared, “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 favour.” Then, he declared that this “great and glorious Being,” who he called “Almighty God,“ is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. Therefore, the citizens of the nation were called to “unite in rendering unto Him” their “sincere and humble thanks for His care and protection.”
He went on to call for the people 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; — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually.”
Washington’s birthday is no longer a national holiday. But when our nation is moving away from the principles of the founding fathers, his birthday is a good time to stop and think about the direction we want it to take.