Maryland County Commissioner Prays Bogus George Washington Prayer

George did not chop down the cherry either

A federal judge recently ruled that the Carroll County, Maryland Board of Commissioners would not be allowed, at least temporarily, to start their meetings with a sectarian prayer.  The order, however, did not stop Robin Bartlett Frazier, one of the commissioners, from praying a very Christian prayer at a recent budget meeting.  Frazier saw the prayer as an act of civil disobedience, saying that “she was willing to go to jail” to fight the judge’s ruling.  (The ruling, by the way, was a temporary one.  The judge asked the commissioners to refrain from sectarian prayer until a lawsuit on public prayers at meetings of the Board of Commissioners could be decided).

Frazier claimed that the prayer she prayed came from George Washington. I assume that she felt that if she prayed a prayer by Washington she would be sending the message that America was founded on Christian principles.  How could a federal court condemn a prayer by George Washington?

Unfortunately, Washington never uttered this prayer.  It comes from a bogus prayer book that has been wrongly attributed to the first president.  The Carroll County Times asked me to help clarify the whole situation.  Here is a taste of their coverage:

43 thoughts on “Maryland County Commissioner Prays Bogus George Washington Prayer

  1. WS,

    Jon knows that. He's just playing the fool. He couldn't be that ignorant to believe Madison would talk about soteriology in any public forum, although Rowe doesn't fail to amaze. JM was sick and tired of dealing with it as far back as 1775. If anyone was secretive about his theology, it was him. He most likely burned his correspondence to Bradford in the 1780's because of it.

    That Madison was a Predestinarian is proven on my blog and there isn't one iota of his words that reject it. Just enter his name in the search bar.

    Additionally, James Hutson has a good reason why the framers ceased to mention Christ after the Revolution. It's in his Church and State book from 2008. I tend to believe he's right.

    I wonder why Fea and TVD didn't respond. The framers were high on Montesquieu's “principles that do not change” philosophy that he got from Calvin.

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  2. Actually, he's quite correct on that point. Calvinist theology recognizes more than one use of the word “freedom,” and the claim that individuals should be left free of government coercion is not equivalent in that theological system to the claim that individuals have freedom from God to choose whether or not to accept Him. I personally think that Calvin was mistaken in his view of election, but OFT is correct to note that Madison could hold to the doctrines of Calvinism while still advocating for the government to implement freedom of conscience. He is also correct to suggest that you might benefit from a few seminary classes.

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  3. Jon wrote:

    The point of the quotation is actually, “it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences.

    Who does Madison say allows you your free choice? I'll give you a hint. It has nothing to do with freewill or predestination, which has to do with soteriology, not liberty of conscience. It's the government's usurpation into the realm of religion that he was always against. The quote has nothing to do with salvation.

    “that gift of Heaven for the good of man, freed from all coercive edicts, from that unhallowed connection with the powers of this world which corrupts religion into an instrument or an usurper of the policy of the state”

    The state is to protect the gift of salvation, which is by free choice, given to the elect by faith (Rom 12:3).

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  4. The point of the quotation is actually, “it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences.”

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  5. Jon,

    You might need to go to seminary to understand the nuance between freewill and predestination. Even so, you aren't reading the quote correctly. The point of the quote is “freed from all coercive edicts”.

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  6. LOL. OFT just loves “seeing” things that aren't there.

    James Madison, more than any other founder who argued for religious liberty, predicated his case on freewillism which is more associated with Arminianism not Calvinism which rejects said doctrine. And it's evident in the very quotation OFT provided here.

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  7. That the people thought anything other than what John Adams thought on his inauguration is speculating to the worst degree. Like the people, Adams supported Federal governmental support of Christianity:

    I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect.

    –Inaugural Address, In the City of Philadelphia, Saturday, March 4, 1797.

    The Predestinarian Calvinist President James Madison did not address the people with a generic god. He addressed the Christian people using the Christian God:

    If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to whom it is addressed, it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences; and such a spectacle must be interesting to all Christian nations as proving that religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man, freed from all coercive edicts, from that unhallowed connection with the powers of this world which corrupts religion into an instrument or an usurper of the policy of the state…Upon these principles and with these views the good people of the United States are invited, in conformity with the resolution aforesaid, to dedicate the day above named to the religious solemnities therein recommended. [bold face mine]

    –James Madison, Given at Washington, this 23d day of July, A. D. 1813.

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  8. the Continental Congress was quite Jesus Christ-y as you show here, but in the period between the Revolutionary War and the framing and the ratification of the Constitution, “America” mutated into “The United States.”

    Whatever this is, it isn't scholarly and there's no way in hell the founding fathers thought like this. You can rationalize why they stopped using the Lord's name at the Federal level, but without the goods, it's only speculation without any foundation. The fact is, many founding fathers became more diligent in giving the various states their due power, which is evident when you read the ratifying conventions; especally Virginia.

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  9. Tom wrote: Good points. For accuracy's sake, however, when speaking of legalities it's important not to conflate the actions of the Continental Congress with the modern US Congress and government under the Constitution of 1787.

    However, the framers made no distinction as you say. The principles remained the same.

    We have seen that in the new government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction. The truth is, that the great principles of the Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered less as absolutely new, than as the expansion of principles which are found in the articles of Confederation.

    –Federalist 40

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  10. Mr. Forten, if I may jump in for Jonathan Rowe here, and I think Jon will approve—the Continental Congress was quite Jesus Christ-y as you show here, but in the period between the Revolutionary War and the framing and the ratification of the Constitution, “America” mutated into “The United States.”

    Which was conspicuously–JAdams's proclamation aside–not all that Jesus Christ-y.

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  11. Jon, if I'm not mistaken, Bell's argument was that Adams was thought to be too Presbyterian because he called for a fast not because he invoked the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. In fact, Adams' proclamation differed little in this regard from the Dec. 18, 1777 proclamation from Congress that Bell cited. That proclamation also called on the people to:

    join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance

    Also, in 1779, the Continental Congress passed another resolution calling for a day to thank God because:

    he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-03-02-0187)

    This resolution was repeated by Washington in his General Orders on November 27, 1779. Are you saying that it Adams was referring to his use of language nearly identical to these two examples, or is it more likely that he was referring to the fact that he called for a fast rather than for just prayer and thanksgiving?

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  12. Also note when one examines the religious language used by the first four Presidents when invoking God on the nation's behalf, the militant unitarian John Adams' language is the exception (which he later regretted) to the rule of invoking a generic monotheistic God.

    They avoided Jesus in favor of “God” or “Providence” or some other inclusive God word. That was their rule.

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  13. “Ben Jones” is trying to anticipate this:

    — The National Fast, recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, & & &, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicon prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment of a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whisper ran through them “Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President.” This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgivings. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion. —

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/12/more-on-john-adams-religion-and.html

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  14. Good points. For accuracy's sake, however, when speaking of legalities it's important not to conflate the actions of the Continental Congress with the modern US Congress and government under the Constitution of 1787.

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  15. Almost repeating the very meaning and words of John Adams, the people said the same thing twenty years earlier, but more specific about Christ, and Calvinist at that, written by Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee and Daniel Roberdeau:

    Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received…[to offer] humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot [our sins] out of remembrance…and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

    –Journals of…Congress (1907), Vol. IX, 1777, pp 854-855, November 1, 1777.

    It is John Adams who called these prayer fasts Calvinist to Benjamin Rush on June 12, 1812.

    Adams was wrong about a great many things, including his opinion on what turned him out of the Presidency. What turned him out of office was Hamilton and himself splitting the party and the demise of Edward Rutledge. Even with the Sedition Act, Adams still would have won.

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  16. Thomas Jefferson noted quite well how religion caused more wars than anything else in European history.

    Even if true [doubtful], the butcher's bills of modern secular states like Napoleon's, the Kaiser's and the Führer's have rendered that “truth” obsolete.

    Forten: “Now, if the President of the United States can call upon the chaplains of Congress in order to craft a proclamation recommending that every individual in the nation seek forgiveness of his sins through the redemption of Jesus Christ, then surely a lowly county commissioner has the right to pray a Christian prayer at the start of their meeting.”

    So far unaddressed, let alone refudiated.

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  17. Wsforten,
    Would said county commissioner be offended if I offered prayers to Allah at the same meeting? Or Buddha?

    The problem as I see it is a lack of equality in religious preference. This is not 1776 where the American colonies were all practically a Christian society. Our nation has grown and now encompasses a lot of religions. If the government is going to support religion then it has to support all religions. That is the real problem here.

    Too many people want religion in government, but only their form of religion, not any other. We've seen how this works with anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Mormonism in the US since the day it was created. Thomas Jefferson noted quite well how religion caused more wars than anything else in European history. He advocated a secular government and freedom of religion for that reason among others.

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  18. We could also add that John Adams specifically requested that the entire nation spend a day in prayer and fasting to seek forgiveness through the redemption of Jesus Christ before entering into the Quasi-War with France:

    As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favourable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed, and as this duty at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are, at present, placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation, by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a Foreign Power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our Commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens, while engaged in their lawful business on the seas. – Under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country, demands, at this time, a special attention from its inhabitants.

    I have, therefore, thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the ninth day of May next, be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer: That the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all Religious Congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching him at the same time of His infinite Grace through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his Holy Spirit, to that sincere Repentance and Reformation, which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favour and Heavenly Benediction: That it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication, that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it: That our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate, and perpetuated to the latest generations: (http://books.google.com/books?id=Uz4FAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA756)

    Of course, some would be quick to point out that this was a public proclamation which does not convey the actual, personal beliefs of John Adams, but that is exactly the point. This is a public proclamation from the President of the United States recommending that every individual in the nation seek forgiveness of his sins through the redemption of Jesus Christ. According to Adams' Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, the idea of recommending a public fast originated with the President, and he called upon the chaplains of Congress to help him write the proclamation:

    Prior to the receipt of your letter, the President had determined to recommend the observance of a general fast; and had desired one or both the chaplains of Congress to prepare the draught of a proclamation. (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0220)

    Now, if the President of the United States can call upon the chaplains of Congress in order to craft a proclamation recommending that every individual in the nation seek forgiveness of his sins through the redemption of Jesus Christ, then surely a lowly county commissioner has the right to pray a Christian prayer at the start of their meeting.

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  19. She picked the wrong hill to die on,* but whether or not it's Washington's prayer [not] is irrelevant to the actual issue.

    Since the issue of “Jesus Christ” will be decided this term

    http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/town-of-greece-v-galloway/

    this political football need not have been put in play at this particular moment.

    On a personal note, although I consider it bad manners to invoke Jesus Christ in the presence of those who don't accept him, the pluralist in me says it's fine, provided that Allah and Vishnu or whathaveyou isn't banned.

    In my book, both those who insist on “Jesus” and those who go to the trouble of litigating him do the most harm to our polity, and can all to go to hell.

    ___________
    *Albeit an understandable mistake by a non-historian–the now-debunked “Washington's Prayer” has been in circulation for well over a hundred years, and according to this fellow [I can't vouch for him]

    http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/henriques/hist615/steiner.htm

    at least some of the key phrases indeed originate with Washington. The reader of the newspaper account will get the half of the story where the prayer is bogus, but not the rest of its history.

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  20. John, do you know if the text of Samuel Provost's sermon during the inauguration of Washington is available online? It seems to me that since this sermon was conducted at the express order of Congress, it would have direct bearing on the question of whether the religious actions of the government can be done in the name of Jesus Christ. All I've been able to find online so far is this excerpt from William Federer's website:

    We are occupied in the…most important business that can possibly engage the human mind…that…in the Hands of God, we shall be made the happy instruments of turning many from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan to the Knowledge and Love of the Truth…Lay no other foundation than that which is already laid…upon the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified…Let us all unite our most strenuous endeavors, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may run and be glorified, till the earth be filled with the Knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

    Federer does not provide a footnote, so I have not been able to verify the accuracy of this quote, but if it is accurate, then it seems that Ms. Frazier was acting well within her rights regardless of the validity of the Washington Prayer Book. Do you have any other information on this sermon?

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