Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Founding Fathers, version 2.0

This is a quote from an article written by by Hank Pellissier, dated February 16, 2004, and available at

Why was big George [Washington] chasing foxes on Sunday morning, instead of praying at church like his current smaller namesake in the White House? "Washington -- like many original patriots -- was not a believer," says Dr. Philip Schoenberg, a history professor at New York's College of Aeronautics and proprietor of a Web site called "The Presidential Expert." It is ironic that religion has deeply wormed its way into a government largely designed by agnostics.

These are some quotes from an article written by Ken Lynn, available at

The discussion over Sunday mail began in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1809. The town postmaster, Hugh Wylie, followed the commonly practiced, though unofficial, custom of sorting the mail and opening his post office on Sundays so that churchgoers from nearby villages could pick up their mail after church services. Wylie, an elder in the local Presbyterian church, was expelled from the church for this outlandish violation of the Sabbath. U.S. Postmaster General Gideon Granger responded in 1810 by having Congress pass federal legislation governing all 2,300 post offices, declaring that U.S. mail would be moved seven days per week, and all post offices that received mail had to be opened at least one hour each day.

Petitions immediately began arriving in Congress from religious groups asking for the law to be repealed. By 1815, more than one hundred petitions had been received urging repeal. Sounding remarkably similar to the Christian right of today, one petition summed up opposition to Sunday mail as follows: "our government is a Christian government, a government formed and established by Christians and therefore, bound by the word of God, not at liberty to contravene His law, nor act irrespectively of the obligations we owe to Him."


In 1828, the General Union for the Promotion of the Christian Sabbath (GUPCS) was formed in new York City. This organization launched a new and much broader Congressional petition campaign to repeal the 1810 Postal Act. Members of GUPCS had to pledge to boycott all businesses that operated on Sunday. After a call for petitions went out, 467 petitions arrived in Congress by 1829 (and more than 900 by May 1831). Many petitions again mistakenly claimed America was founded as a Christian nation.

Defenders of Sunday mail called attention to the secular Constitution as the blueprint for the federal government. Some called the campaign of the General Union "the first step of a Christian party plan to seize control of the national government." In 1830, three states filed petitions with Congress opposing repeal of the 1810 law. One of the three state petitioners, Indiana, strongly endorsed the secular ideals of the United States Constitution and concluded its petition with words as meaningful today as in 1830:

"There are no doctrines or observances inculcated by the Christian religion which require the arm of civil power either to enforce or sustain them; we consider every connection between church and state at all times dangerous to civil and religious liberty."


The story of the "Sunday mail" is noteworthy because it demonstrates that even fifty years after the founding of our nation a powerful national consensus existed over the absolutely secular nature of our Constitution and our federal government.

As those of the Christian right have so mistakenly advanced, the United States was not founded as a Christian nation which was then eroded by secularist and liberals; in fact, just the opposite is true. Our great nation was founded by the adoption of an utterly secular Constitution and the nation has endured erosion as "God" first appeared on U.S. currency in 1863, entered the postal service in 1912, the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and potentially could enter the Constitution itself....

The religuous right has rewritten the beliefs of the Founding Fathers to suit their agenda. Or maybe the religuous right are simply uneducated and ignorant. That seems more likely. But what's interesting to me is that I came across these two related quotes while I was looking for information on two completely unrelated subjects: George Washington's dogs, and the history of Sunday mail delivery.

Funny how that works....

Labels: ,

the religous people have been rewriting stuff to fit their needs for thousands of years, this isn't a surprise, right? ;o)
hi there.
i was doing a search on GUPCS for my history research paper (religious right's attempts to hijack the constitution) and your journal came up.
thank you for interjecting some humor into an otherwise miserable day in hell aka NC state university.

also: vegan slasher movie! yes!

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?