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Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State Hardcover – February 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Spence Pub (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890626732
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890626730
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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<br /><br />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<br /><br />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 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.

Customer Reviews

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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By B. D. Weimer on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
All the founders were monotheists -- Christians and Deists -- who believed that God was essential to the republican experiment. It was the two most Deistic founders, Jefferson and Franklin, who insisted that our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, have a firmly monotheistic rationale for the break with Britain.

Thus, it has long frustrated traditional thinkers that Jefferson's "wall of separation" language, meant to protect churches from government interference, has been taken out of context and used to supplant the founders' vision of government support for religion.

Authors Ross and Smith have properly shifted the focus from Jefferson to Washington. They point out that Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention, and was not in the Congress for the debates over the First Amendment; thus his understanding of the drafters' intent is of secondary importance. By contrast, George Washington was both the President of the Constitutional Convention and the President of the United States during the First Amendment debates and ratification; thus his understanding of the drafters' intent is of primary importance.

Ross and Smith carefully document George Washington's firm conviction, expressed throughout his life, that the government must actively support monotheism, rather than be a neutral and secular bystander. Thus, in his 1795 Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Washington reminded the country of its duty "to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience."

By placing the focus on Washington's views, the authors have helped to restore the monotheistic framework of all the founders (including Jefferson). To avoid the lure of tyranny, the government should respect the God-given rights of its citizens, and should support the monotheism that informs our republic.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dr3rdEye on February 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My own views on the proper place of religion in the public life are a lot closer to Jefferson's than Washington's and, even that perspective, I think this is a vital book. For me, its single most important contribution to the debate was the clear conception that Washington--and for that matter--Thomas Jefferson had religious policy positions that may have been distinct from their own personal beliefs. I had really bought whole hog into the idea, implied by Joseph Ellis and Gordon Wood among others, that Washington's personal lack of outward religious devotion was a good statement of his public policy position. Public policy positions about religion aren't--and shouldn't be--directly connected to personal belief.
Since it contains an extensive, although not exhaustive, selection of Washington's writings on religion, it's also an important reference work that belongs in most libraries.
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Format: Hardcover
We are all familiar with the famous line the Supreme Court misused in Everson v. Board of Education in 1947 to begin a drive to eradicate religion from public life. The statement on the wall of separation between Church and State comes from Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists and is nowhere in the Constitution.

The Baptists, a dissenting group in England, were against having a state church (an established church) and wrote Jefferson: "Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty -- That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals -- That no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions - That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor..."

Jefferson wrote back to demonstrate that he also did not support a Federally Established Church (even though several states at the time had established churches). Jefferson wrote, "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

Of course, this did not mean that the public square had to be sterilized of all religious references nor that the government must take a stance that God cannot be referenced in any way nor can the government support religion as a general concept. Because different states had established different churches, they did not want the Federal Government choosing one of them over the others and the Baptists wanted no state or the Federal Government to establish any church.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Bennett on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this short "treatise" on why it is false to say George Washington was nothing more than a deist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By noneya on February 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Interestingly, the most outspoken advocates of 'separation of church and state' (Words not found in our Constitution, but found in the Humanist Manifestos and in the failed Soviet Constitution, Article 52: "The church shall be separate from the state, and the schools from the church"), are actually relentless activists actually pushing a particular belief system and using tax dollars to accomplish it.
[...]
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By George M. Bosh on April 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
George Washington was the foremost founder, but in matters of Constitutional interpretation he deferred to James Madison. And Madison "argued in his famous "Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments," that religion was not an "engine of civil society," that the establishment contemplated by the Virginian "general assessment" bill of 1784, which would have imposed taxes to subsidize religion, differed from the Inquisition "only in degree," not in principle, and that any establishment violated freedom of religion, injured religion, corrupted government, and threatened public liberty.
Madison, in fact, had an exquisite sense of the separate jurisdiction of religion and government, and he shared Jefferson' belief in a high wall of separation between the two. He spoke of a "perfect separation" and believed that "religion and Government will exist in greater purity, without...the aid of Government." As for the phrase "national religion," he used it to describe federal use of public funds for the support of interfaith invocation and benediction, congressional and military chaplains, and a law incorporating a church in the District of Columbia, all of which he believed to be unconstitutional. His antagonism to government-assisted religion was extreme, even as to trifling matters." -Origins of the Bill of Rights, Leonard W. Levy, pages 85-86, lines 29-46.
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More About the Author

Tara Ross is the author of "Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College" (2004) and a co-author of "Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State" (2008) (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.). As a lawyer and writer, Tara focuses on the intersection among law, public policy, and constitutional history. She often appears as a guest on a variety of talk shows nationwide to discuss these matters and regularly addresses civic, university, and legal audiences. Her work has been published in several law reviews and newspapers, including the National Law Journal, USA Today, the American Enterprise Online, National Review Online, WeeklyStandard.com, FoxNews.com, HumanEvents.com, The Washington Times, and the Texas Review of Law & Politics.


Tara is a retired lawyer and a former Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Review of Law & Politics. She obtained her B.A. from Rice University and her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. Tara and her husband Adam reside in Dallas with their children Emma and Grant.

Follow Tara on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaraRoss.1787 or visit her website at www.taraross.com.