George Washington – Protector of Religious Liberty

George WashingtonOn May 29, 1789, President George Washington wrote in response to a letter from the Methodist Episcopal Bishop of New York:

“I return to you individually, and through you, to your society collectively in the United States, my thanks for the demonstrations of affection and the expressions of joy, offered in their behalf, on my late appointment. It shall still be my endeavor to manifest by overt acts the purity of my inclinations for promoting the happiness of mankind, as well as the sincerity of my desires to contribute whatever may be in my power towards the preservation of the civil and religious liberties of the American people. In pursuing this line of conduct, I hope, by the assistance of Divine Providence, not altogether to disappoint the confidence which you have been pleased to repose in me.

“It always affords me satisfaction when I find a concurrence in sentiment and practice between all conscientious men in acknowledgements of homage to the great Governor of the Universe, and in professions of support to a just civil government. After mentioning that I trust the people of every denomination, who demean themselves as good citizens, will have every occasion to be convinced that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion, I must assure you in particular, that I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the throne of grace for me [Heb. 4:16], and that I likewise implore the divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community.”*

President Washington saw his role as a protector of both civil and religious liberty, which is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Hebrews 4:16 and reflect on George Washington’s reply to the Methodist Episcopal Bishop of New York.

Prayer: Father, we are grateful for a leader in George Washington who was a “faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion.” Give us leaders in our day who will be “religion friendly” and not “religion hostile,” in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington; Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, And Other Papers, Official And Private, Selected and Published From The Original Manuscripts; With a Life of the Author, Notes, and Illustrations, 12 vols., (Boston: American Stationers Company, 1837), 153-54. Bracketed item added.

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