The Pennsylvania House of Representatives declared April 30 as “National Fast Day.” The folks at the Anti-Christian bullying group Americans United for Separation of Church and State are huffing and puffing over the constitutional and historical practice.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, “In our view, it’s not the job of the government to call on people to pray or to advocate for religious activities like fasting. Americans are capable of making decisions about theology on their own without the help of the government.”
In might not be the view of Americans United, but is it the view of those who drafted the Constitution?
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.”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” 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.”2
John Adams called for two National Fast Days nearly 10 years after the ratification of the Constitution. On May 9, 1798 he called for “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer”3 so “that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it.”
“[That April 15, 1799] be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that ‘righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people [Proverbs 14:34].’”4
History and the Constitution are on the side of the Representatives of Pennsylvania.
- Original document can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/aOwYxM [↩]
- A copy of the original document can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/4JgH3j.)) Keep in mind that these two proclamations precede (1774) and follow (1777) the drafting the Declaration of Independence.
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.” ((Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, one-volume ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 87. [↩]
- John Adams, “A Proclamation” (March 23, 1798) printed in the Philadelphia Weekly Magazine, March 31, 1798. [↩]
- John Adams, “National Fast Day,” A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1:284–286. [↩]
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