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

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9781890626730: Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State

No American living in 1800 would have predicted that Thomas Jefferson s idiosyncratic views on church and state would ever 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 of separation between church and state. Washington's sharply contrasting views, explored in this path-breaking new book, suggest a more reasonable interpretation of the First Amendment, one that is consistent with religion s importance to the enterprise of democracy.

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 democracy 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.

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About the Author:

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.

Review:

Ross and Smith restore George Washington's view of church and state to its proper place in history, which will inevitably change what we think and say in the present. Hint: He and Thomas Jefferson didn't see eye to eye. --Richard Brookhiser

Ross and Smith's study of Washington illuminates the question of church and state in America in remarkable ways. They have written a truly enlightening and though-provoking book. --William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard

Under God examines a subject that has long deserved careful attention. This book is a must-read for every patriotic citizen. --Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General

Under God examines a subject that has long deserved careful attention. This book is a must-read for every patriotic citizen. --Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General

Ross and Smith's study of Washington illuminates the question of church and state in America in remarkable ways. They have written a truly enlightening and though-provoking book. --William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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