Founding Father John Adams’ Advice to Rick Perry: Don’t Meddle in Religion
Texas Governor Rick Perry has organized a prayer meeting to call on Jesus because, Perry says, “some problems are beyond our power to solve.” The website of “The Response—A call to prayer for a nation in crisis” (set for August 6 in Houston), names some of those unsolvable problems: “financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters.”
One of the endorsers for Gov. Perry’s event is historical document collector David Barton, who often cites the Founding Fathers in attempts to legitimate his central thesis that the United States is, and was intended to be, a “Christian Nation.” Surely, then, he would approve of the advice I propose to Gov. Perry: In calling for heavenly solutions to earthly problems, the governor might appreciate the observations of our second president, John Adams. Hearing this, a disciple of Mr. Barton might nod approvingly, and point out that Gov. Perry is indeed following the example of President Adams by calling for a national time of fasting and prayer, events President Adams endorsed in 1798 and 1799.
While it is true that Adams declared these national fasts, he later regretted it, telling good friend, Benjamin Rush, “The National Fast, recommended by me, turned me out of office.” Whether Adams fell from favor over a prayer day is a matter of historical dispute. However, it is quite clear that Adams reevaluated his support for religious declarations. Gov. Perry and the rest of us can take a lesson from Adams’ hindsight.
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