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Spiritual Heritage and the Acts of Congress

QUESTION: Spiritual Heritage – The Acts of Congress


In 1853, the U. S. Senate declared that the Founding Fathers “had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people . . . they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy.”1

In 1854, the United States House of Representatives declared “It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. . . . Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions.”2

Spiritual Heritage – Money, Motto, and National Anthem
In 1864, by law Congress added “In God We Trust” to American coinage.3 In 1864, Congress also passed an act authorizing each state to display statues of two of its heroes in the United States Capitol,4 resulting in numerous statues of noted Christian clergymen and leaders at the Capitol, including Gospel ministers such as the Revs. James A. Garfield, John Peter Muhlenberg, Jonathan Trumbull, Roger Williams, Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, and Martin Luther King Jr.; Gospel theologians such as Roger Sherman; Catholic priests such as Father Damien, Jacques Marquette, Eusebio Kino, and Junipero Serra; Catholic nuns such as Mother Joseph; and numerous other religious leaders.

In 1870, the federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U. S. Supreme Court as “acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for two centuries”5) and Thanksgiving as official holidays.6

Beginning in 19047 and continuing for the next half-century,8 the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained.

In 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem,9 with its phrases such as “may the Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,” and “this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!’ ”10

In 1954, Congress by law added the phrase “one nation under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.11 Also in 1954, a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: “Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust,” and the phrase “This Nation Under God” displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington.

In 1956, Congress by law made “In God We Trust” the National Motto,12 and added the phrase to American currency.13 The constitutions of each of the fifty states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God.14


1 The Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-Second Congress, 1852-53 (Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853), pp. 1-4.

2 Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 1, 6, 8-9.

3 Statutes at Large, March 3, 1865, 38th Congress, 2nd Session, Chapter 100, Sect. 5, pp. 517-518; similar laws passed on April 22, 1864 and March 3, 1865 and February 12, 1873; see current 31 USC §5112(d)(1)(2000).


5 Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U. S. 668, 669-670 (1984).

6 The Public Statutes at Large (Boston: Little & Brown, 1845), 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 168, June 28, 1870, ( (currently at 5 U.S.C. §6103).

7 The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French, and English, Thomas Jefferson, editor, introduction by Cyrus Adler, Librarian of the Smithsonian (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1904), pp. 17-19.

8 Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson’s “Bible”: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, compiled with introduction by Judd W. Patton (Grove City: American Book Distributors, 1996), p. iii, “Introduction.”

9 46 Stat. 1508 (codified at 36 U.S.C. §301).

10 The Analectic Magazine (Philadelphia: Moses Thomas, 1814), Vol. IV, pp. 433-434.

11 Law passed on June 15, 1954 (codified at 4 U.S.C. §4).

12 Law passed on July 20, 1956 (codified at 36 U.S.C. §302).

13 Law passed on July 20, 1956 (codified at 31 U.S.C. §5114(b)).

14 See, for example, The Federal and State Constitutions: Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, compiled and edited under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1908, by Francis Newton Thorpe (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), 7 volumes; see also ttp://;;;; etc.

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