On Monday morning, I stood proudly with thousands of others as three armed forces veterans dutifully carried the star-spangled banner down Tooele City’s two-mile parade route. Several thoughts flashed through my mind, including how the name Old Glory perfectly describes our nation’s symbol of 13 stripes and 50 stars. I also reflected upon how our Founding Fathers risked their lives when as members of the Continental Congress voted in favor of and then signed the Declaration of Independence 246 years ago.
Of course, there were thousands of others who fought in the Revolutionary War as our nation began to fight for God-given liberties. Independence Day is also an ideal time to ponder upon and give thanks to the sacrifices made by the men and women who faithfully served our country in past years and today. I share with you some quotes of our nation’s early leaders and how they felt about God, freedom of religion, and religious liberty.
George Washington, the Father of our Country said, “The liberty enjoyed by the people of these States of worshipping Almighty God, agreeable to their consciences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.”
General Washington also wrote, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”
Patriot John Jay, who helped negotiate the end of the Revolutionary War and later served as the first Supreme Court chief justice, advised, “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
Fisher Ames, who was a member of Congress that passed our Constitution also valued the Good Book in different light than most institutes of education do today. He said, “[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind.”
Thomas Paine inspired the American people to declare independence with the publication of the pamphlet Common Sense. He wrote, “As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.”
James Madison, regarded as the Father of the Constitution said, “Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.”
Noah Webster is best remembered for organizing America’s first dictionary. But he was also a strong American revolutionary and diligent supporter of Constitutional ratification. He said, “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government…and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”
Benjamin Franklin seldom wasted words and he clearly stated his views on the existence of the Supreme Being. He wrote, “Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs the World by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable Service we can render him, is doing good to his other Children.”
During this month of patriotic observance, I hope all of us will take time to reflect upon our God-given liberties that have been defended and preserved by those serving in our nation’s armed forces.
Charlie Roberts is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Stansbury Park.