George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation: Does It Support Union of Church and State or Separation of Church and State?

Click here to go to an online copy of the Proclamation
The Proclamation is also pasted in the Endnote

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 24, 2022

This brief article will address the question: “What does George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation have to say about the relationship of church and state?”

The Proclamation does not:

  1. mention “Church;”
  2. state that church and state should be united in any way; or
  3. explicitly state that church and state should be separate.

I will now go to the Proclamation. My comments are in red.

The Proclamation:

  1. mentions Almighty God;
  2. refers to the “providence of Almighty God.” The Bible makes clear that God is almighty.
  3. states that it is the “duty of all nations to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

President Washington stated several conclusions here. All are consistent with the Word of God. It is clear from God’s Word that, for the good of man, he wishes all nations to proceed under him, both Jew and Gentile, with distinctions that should be recognized and followed.

The Old Testament deals much with nations and human government. At first, all nations were Gentile. There was no theocracy—God directly over civil government and religion with both working lockstep for the same purposes. Later God covenented with Israel to be  a theocracy, the only theocracy, other than the church, that God ever ordained.

During the time between the fall and the flood, God forbade human government (control of man by man; man taking vengeance for evil doing by men). As a result, since the imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” “the earth was corrupt” and “filled with violence.” God’s only remedy was judgment, the judgment of the flood.

God ordained the nations and human government providing for the rule of man by man under God at the flood. He ordained civil government for the temporal earthly purposes of providing a direct control over evil-doers and rewarding those who do good. At first all nations were Gentile.

Later, God called out a nation unto himself, the nation Israel, when he made his covenant with Abraham who was to be the father of Israel.  Israel was to be a theocracy. God has never covenanted with any other nation to be a theocracy with the political and religious combined, working together for the same goals, each doing its part, but both directly under God, according to covenant he he made with Israel through Moses. That covenant dealt with both man’s relationship to God (the first table of the law) and man’s relationship to man (the second table). God later made additional covenants with Israel.

God did not give the law to Gentile nations, as the Old and New Testaments make clear. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:14-15).

None of God’s covenants with Israel apply to Gentile nations. Gentile nations were and are to continue under the covenants  God made with Adam (recorded in Genesis 3:14-19) and Noah (see, Genesis 8:21-9:27).

For much more detail, see The Biblical Doctrine of Government.

America is a Gentile nation. Christian revisionists attempt the impossible: application of the history, covenants, promises, principles, etc. for Israel to America (and other Gentile nations). They want to “Judaize” America and the church. History clearly proves that all unions of church and state have resulted in corruption of the “church,” corruption of the state, and corruption of the people. Of course, God has always had a remnant who stood against the church/state establisment even under penalty of death. Many of our founding fathers understood and proclaimed this.

  1. states, “whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

God’s Word makes clear that all individuals, families, and nations should give such thanks to him for many reasons. However, the God-given purpose of all governments (individual, family, human, and church) is to glorify God, not happiness, no matter the situation, whether safe or unsafe. Christ wishes that his children might have his joy, not happiness, fulfilled in them (see, e.g., John 17:13). King David prayed, after committing his great sins of adultery and murder, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psalms 51:12). Since God has afforded safety, his children should be thankful and use the occasion for doing his will in all things.

  1. personally recommends and assigns Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

Notice that President Washington mentions “civil and religious liberty.” One can have both civil and religious liberty only when they have the religious freedom and soul liberty provided by the First Amendment and now by corresponding provisions in all the state constitutions. Massachusetts became the last state to do away with forced establishment in 1833. Both federal and state laws give temporal earthly liberty to the born again believer, who – no matter the state of his temporal earthly liberty – has eternal spiritual liberty “wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Galatians 5:1).

The federal and state laws which provide for civil and religious liberty protect everyone from temporal earthly persecution by the state for their “religious” beliefs; one is free to worship the true God, a false god or gods,  or no god. One cannot have civil and religious liberty when union of church and state are mandated. Without Christ’s liberty, one is a slave; with it, one is free even if the state does not provide for civil liberty.  “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

President Washington—as did James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and many other Founding Fathers—believed in separation of church and state, as history proves. They did not believe in “Judaizing” America, something that can only be simulated and justified by a false interpretation of Scripture and propped up by historical revisionism. For documented proof of the beliefs of the founders, see The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/Christian Revisionism on Trial, especially Section II Christian History of the First Amendment. The index of the free online PDF version, or the printed book will guide you quickly to pages covering particular persons, places, events, etc.

  1. concludes: “and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

Amen. Notice that he said, “To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion.” He did not say, “To force men to practice any religion, including that of any Protestant, Baptist, Quaker, Catholic, Jewish etc. denomination or sect. That precludes union of church and state. As history proves, all such unions have always forced, under severe penalty for disobedience – imprisonment, death, banishment, torture, etc. – all citizens to bow down to the official church/state union. Again, for emphasis, all such unions always resulted in the corruption of the people (who bowed down to the unified religion and state), the state, and the official state “church.” See what Jefferson, Madison, Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, John Leland and others involved in the colonial spiritual warfare said on this matter in the book cited above and also in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (go to the index of the PDF or printed version to find pages for particular persons).

So there you have it. President Washington in his Thanksgiving Proclamation – as did Jefferson, Madison, Backus, Leland, Williams – supported separation of church and state. He, as he proclaimed, along with other founding fathers, also believed in and union of God and state. This is Biblical. God and church are not the same. God ordained the church long after he ordained civil government. He ordained Gentile human government to deal with termporal earthly matters. He ordained the church with jurisdiction over eternal heavenly matters. Combining the two violates Bible principles. See, God Betrayed for comprehensive explanation.

Christian revisionists cite Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, and other historical speeches and documents, out of the context of complete historical facts in their effort to convince Americans, and especially American “Christians,” that church and state should combine. Because of their inability to correctly believe Scripture, they cannot understand the difference between separation of church and state and separation of God and state. Because they believe it is alright to lie to those who do not share their views, they revise Scripture and history. Like their Catholic and Protestant forefathers, their goal is to “Judaize” American civil government and the church. They say, ad nauseum, “Separation of church and state is not found in the constitution.” I fell for that line and their other soundbites as I began to read and hear Christian revisionists after my salvation in 1980. Over the years, God revealed the truth to me. I had a choice. Go with truth or go with lies. Read the whole story in The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/Christian Revisionism on Trial/A Case of Premeditated Murder/Christian Revisionism on Trial/The Christian History of the First Amendment (Available in free PDR, softback, online version).


Endnote

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

 

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