Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State

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Spence Publishing Company, 2008 - Political Science - 317 pages
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"No American living in 1800 would have predicted that Thomas Jefferson's idiosyncratic views on church and state would eclipse those of George Washington - let alone become constitutional dogma. Yet today's Supreme Court guards no doctrine more fiercely than Jefferson's antagonistic "wall or separation" between church and state. Washington's sharply contrasting view, explored in this path-breaking book, returns us to a more reasonable interpretation of the First Amendment, consistent with religion's importance to the strength of a republic." "The most admired man of his age, Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention and was president when religious freedom was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. His claim to constitutional authority is considerably more impressive than the brilliant - but eccentric - Jefferson's. Washington considered religion essential for the virtue required of self-governing citizens. Though careful not to favor particular sects, he believed that a republic must not merely accommodate religion but encourage it." "Ross and Smith combine a study of Washington's thought with a copious appendix containing the full texts of his letters, speeches, and official documents on issues of church and state. They present his views chronologically, devoting a chapter to each stage of his career: young regimental officer, colonial legislator, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, head of the Constitutional Convention, and president of the United States. An epilogue explains how Jefferson's separationist perspective achieved its disproportional influence on the modern Supreme Court."--BOOK JACKET.

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User Review  - TomVeal - LibraryThing

Thomas Jefferson's opinion that the First Amendment erected an unbreachable wall between religion and government has triumphed so thoroughly that few Americans realize that other Founding Fathers held ... Read full review


Commander of the Virginia Regiment
Member of the House of Burgesses
CommanderinChief of the Continental Army

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About the author (2008)

TARA ROSS, the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College (2004), is a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas Law School. She lives in Dallas and writes on legal and public policy issues.JOSEPH C. SMITH JR. is a graduate of Yale College and the University of Chicago Law School. A former deputy attorney general of Colorado, he practices law in Denver.

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