Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all wrote that they had signed the Constitution July 4, 1776, but there are some historians who argue that they signed a month later. So the question becomes, whom are you going to believe—the men who were there and participated, or PBS and the History Channel?Me, I’ll go with the historians who’ve actually examined the evidence, but I’d be really surprised to find that any of them said the Constitution was signed in 1776, in July, August, or any other month. And yet after this gaffe this Massie character has the colossal gall to lecture his readers about the true meaning of the Constitution. It appears the Founders “intended for God to be acknowledged and prayers to be offered in conjunction with good government and the observance of federal holidays and the ceremonies adjoining same.” (These are actually his words.) If the Founders had wanted “no state-sanctioned religion”, then they would have included the concept somewhere in the Constitution, Mychal Massie thinks. As proof they didn’t intend the no religious test and no establishment clauses to forbid government-mandated religion* he writes:
One of the clearest examples showing that the Founding Fathers never intended the First Amendment to be applied as it is today comes from John Adams. The day before he would sign the actual Constitution, Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail. The very first paragraph on the third page of that letter, Adams wrote: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by the solemn acts of God Almighty.”First of all I would observe of course that even in this very dishonest presentation of the famous Adams quotation Adams nowhere states that government is to require such acts. But the fact is that Adams only includes such devotions to God among various kinds of celebrations he anticipates for the second of July (and what were you saying, Mychal Massie, about the Founders and dates again?):
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.If this is “[o]ne of the clearest examples” showing that the Founders meant to establish religion when they wrote that they didn’t, the rest of his examples must be utter dreck.
(h/t Jon Rowe)
*Of course this restriction originally was only binding on the Federal Government, not the states. The states wrote their own versions of disestablishment both before and after this date.