At the time, Washington D.C. was a relatively small city. Construction focused primarily on the government buildings. Therefore, there were no churches available for worship. As a result, not only did the House Chambers host a non-denominational worship service, known as Capitol church, other sections of the growing building accommodated Capitol Hill Presbyterian, First Congregational Church, the Unitarian Church of Washington, and the First Presbyterian Church, among others. When in session, Congressmen who spent the week arguing and debating each other regarding the country’s future, gathered to worship God together, side by side, on Sundays.
Jefferson attended services while Vice-President with his first participation as President on January 3, 1802. If he honestly believed that the church and state are mutually exclusive, as many profess he declared in the letter he wrote two days prior to this service, he would not have participated in it. In fact, he would have rallied against the Capitol hosting such Christian worship. Yet he didn’t because his statement of the “wall of separation of church and state” was not referring to a disconnection between the two. Looking at the first part of his sentence, he was clearly and unquestionably reiterating the First Amendment and the limitation it puts strictly on the government alone to ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ It in no way limits or restricts people from relying on their religion when addressing matters of the government. In fact, most Founders found it imperative that citizens were guided by the scriptures.
Jefferson and fellow Founder James Madison, the “Father of the Bill of Rights,” were so adamant about attending services at the Capitol that scholars from the Library of Congress stated, "It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church”. (see ) Yet Jefferson and Madison were not alone in their devotion. John Quincy Adams, who served as a Senator, the President, and then a Representative, declared, “I consider it as one of my public duties - as a representative of the people - to give my attendance every Sunday morning when Divine service is performed in the Hall.” (see )
Services continued in the Capitol, moving to Sanctuary Hall in 1807 and remaining there until 1857. Attendance grew to over 2000 people, becoming the largest Protestant congregation within the United States at the time. Chairs were placed in every available space, including behind the Speaker of the House’s rostrum, which was used as the pulpit, to accommodate everyone wishing to worship. Furthermore, Congress purchased the hymnals for the services.
Following the Civil War, attendance to the Capitol church non-denominational service dwindled as congregations constructed their own churches within the city. Denominational churches also worshiping in the Capitol moved to their own buildings as well. It was common place for presidents, from Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, to attend services at the Capitol church.
The House moved to their new chambers in the recently completed extension on December 16, 1857. However, the first public use of the room occurred on December 13 with Rev. Dr. George Cummins preaching to over 2,000 worshipers.
Those that wish to remove God from our present and our future by removing Him from our past purposely ignore histories such as the Capitol church. They dismiss the fact that chaplains pray before Congressional sessions, excusing it as tradition the Founders reluctantly allowed. Jefferson’s treaty with the American Indians, which committed the government to building them a church and providing a priest, is outright ignored.
When a group of Puritan Calvinists established Harvard College in 1636, their goal was to train new clergy to minister to new arrivals to America as well as the Native Americans. Most of the now Ivy League universities of today followed suit as different denominations formed schools of higher education to teach morals, values, and the Gospel. (see ) Massachusetts passed the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647, which required schools to instruct children in the Bible. Jefferson, and other presidents, supported and continued this practice, directing that the teachers utilize the Bible and the Watts Hymnal within the classroom. (see ) Jefferson believed religion was “a supplement to law in government of men,” not divorced from it.
As the Continental Congress composed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which was modeled from one written by Jefferson, they included that, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” (see )
The Founders, led by George Washington, trusted in Divine Providence. (see ) They believed God would bless America if they followed His purpose for the country, spreading the Gospel and treating others, especially the American Indians, with respect, as shown above. However, the "Father of the Democratic Party," Andrew Jackson, distorted the concept, preaching manifest destiny, which allowed the conquering of the west supposedly with God's blessing. (see ) In other words, the country moved from following God's will to enforcing its own will claiming God was behind them. This distortion led to the "Trail of Tears". (see and ) Ironically, critics of America's Christian history don't realize their issues are with followers of manifest destiny while they dismiss and ignore those guided by Divine Providence.
All these facts of the Bible and religion within our government and public education system run by the government is being quickly scrubbed from our history books while Jefferson’s comment to the Danbury Baptist Church is purposely taken out of context. They accuse him of not really believing or of just being a deist so as to diminish the truth of his commitment to religion and its importance in our country. (see ) Critics of Jefferson, and the country, claim they despise him because he owned slaves therefore everything he did must be dismissed. On the other hand, they want to misuse his phrase “wall of separation of church and state,” distorting the purpose and reason for the First Amendment, to ironically force their religion of unbelief upon the citizens of this country. (see )
Liberty, despite their disagreements regarding how the country should be run, for the first 70 years of our country’s existence, Congressmen came together with their families on Sunday to sit in the seats of the Capitol building and worship the one true God. They were able to remove their political hat, and replace it with their believer hat, remembering that God is God, not the government. Since progressive Democrat President Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House, our leaders have lost sight of that. Despite Wilson making several statements regarding God, as a progressive he believed the government was better at running our lives then we were. It was then America became like Israel, begging for a king instead of remembering that God has already provided the morals and statues to follow. Now, 100 years later, current Democrat Presidential candidates are running on the platform of seeing who can provide the most 'free' stuff. They don't want us relying on God anymore, but on them for handouts, health care, schooling, and necessities. In other words, they want us enslaved to the federal government and their policies.
If we want to save America, we have to return to God, putting him first in our lives as citizens. We have to stop believing and accepting the lies of those who stand against everything this country was founded on.
That’s my 2 cents.
The Speaker informed the House that the Chaplains had proposed, if agreeable to the House, to hold Divine service every Sunday in their [the House of Representatives'] Chamber.
These services began five years before the House of Representatives and the Senate held their first sessions on November 17, 1800. Shortly after, the House’s larger chamber was chosen as the official room for which the continuing church services would be held. Without any debate, the members of the House agreed their chambers would be used for Christian worship. The assignment was recorded on December 4, 1800, in the official records for the House of Representatives in the Annals of Congress.
City of Washington, June 19 (1795). It is with much pleasure that we discover the rising consequences of our infant city. Public worship is now regularly administered at the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o'clock by the Reverend Mr. Ralph.
Taking a deep breath, President Thomas Jefferson stood to worship God. However, he was not in any ordinary building joined by ordinary people. Jefferson was in a crowded chamber of the Capitol building surrounded by members of Congress of all ideologies and their families.
Two years after President George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol on September 18, 1793, church services started being held at the government building. The Boston newspaper, The Federal Orrery, marked the event stating:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
December 4, 2019
Thomas grabbed his coat and scarf as he walked to the door. The brisk wind stole his breath as he approached his horse. Church would be starting soon and he didn't want to be late as his friend Rev. John Leland was presiding. Fortunately, he had less that two miles to his destination. Thomas spurred his horse as he noticed the crowds of others heading in the same direction.
After dismounting, attendants collected Thomas' horse before he blended into the masses funneling through the front doors. Scanning the quickly filling room, he found an available seat. Thomas took his place as music filled the air. In the moments before the service started, he drank in the atmosphere while contemplating the letter he penned just two days earlier.
In October, Danbury Baptist Church sent him a letter concerned that the federal government would decide to designate a national religion. As several states established state religions before the Constitution was written, they desired his support in confirming and guaranteeing their religious liberty from the federal government. (see and ) Empathetic to their anxiousness regarding their religious freedom, he responded on January 1, 1802, stating the following:
THE UNITED CHURCH AND STATES OF AMERICA