GOD AND POLITICS….Eugene Volokh comments today on a proposed House resolution calling on the President to declare a day of prayer and fasting. The resolution cites several previous Presidential proclamations of such days and says, among other things, that they have historically “been a means of producing unity and solidarity among all the diverse people of this Nation.”
One of the proclamations they don’t reference is John Adams’ declaration of May 9, 1798 as a day of “solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” Here is what Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, had to say about it in his newspaper, the Aurora:
There is nothing in the constitution giving authority to proclaim fasts….Because prayer, fasting, and humiliation are matters of religion and conscience, with which government has nothing to do…And because we consider a connection between state and church affairs as dangerous to religious and political freedom and that, therefore, every approach towards it should be discouraged….
And this letter to the editor:
I find most good men look on the President’s Proclamation for Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer throughout the States as one of those apparently humble, hypocritical and delusive methods Tyrants have universally began the foundation for oppressing the people with….
Benjamin Franklin himself ? one of those framers of the constitution that people like Anton Scalia keep telling us about ? would surely have agreed. Bringing God into politics didn’t produce “unity and solidarity” in 1798, and there’s no reason to think it will do so today either. This is one resolution that should stay in House members’ churches, where it belongs.