Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley on the American God
In God We Trust?
The following quotes can be found in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News newspapers that reported the story.
On June 30, 1997, Gordon B. Hinckley, the president and prophet of the LDS church, prayed as follows:
“Let thy spirit move upon him to bring to pass those measures which will lift the burdens of government from the backs of the people and keep this nation, under God, a citadel of freedom standing as an example to all the world”
What exactly did he mean by this? What burdens would these be? The burdens of environmental impact statements when chapels and temples are built? The burden of complying with civil rights laws and hiring women on an equal basis and paying them equally? The burden prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying? Burdens that might make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get an abortion? How about the burden of complying with child abuse reporting laws and reporting priesthood holders to the authorities when they abuse their children? The burden on homosexuals that allows them to get kicked out of the military if they don’t hide their orientation? How about the burden on pari-mutuel betting? What about regulating how much alcohol people can drink and when they can make such purchases? Is anyone calling the University he is in charge of a “citadel of freedom”?
Hinckley appears to be saying, “Let’s get rid of burdens that prevent me from doing what I want to do, but stack up the burdens on you when you don’t do what I want–regardless of the fact that what I don’t want you to do doesn’t infringe on my rights.”
Hinckley goes on to say:
“Is it too much to expect that prayer, public and private, be once again established in our national and private lives?”
Where exactly in the constitution or in our history was prayer established in our public and national lives? Jesus himself supposedly said, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” and “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray”. No one is denying Hinckley or anyone else the right to pray. Why does he want to have the government sanction his need for public prayer when the public either doesn’t want to pray or doesn’t want to pray to the same god he does?
The newspapers report:
Hinckley, the leader of the 10 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also invoked the words of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Julia Ward Howe and Alexis de Toqueville in his address, which centered around the words, In God We Trust. There is no other nation with a motto of “In God We Trust,” said President Hinckley. “It is on our currency and coinage. This is the foundation upon which this nation was established, an unequivocal trust in the power of the Almighty to guide and defend us.”
The nation was not founded on the motto of “In God We Trust”. The statement wasn’t the US motto until 1956. “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegence in 1954 by act of Congress. (Source: World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1995 page 468) “In God We Trust” was designated as the US Motto in 1956 by Congress. It’s origin on currency first began during the Civil War when the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, of Ridley, PA wrote to Salmon Chase, Sec. of the Treasury, suggesting some sort of recognition of God on coins. Coins minted in 1864 were the first so done, and this was done on and off until it was ordered by Congress in 1955. (ibid., page 466)
I wonder if Hinckley has any idea what some of these people he quotes would think of Mormonism and Hinckley’s using them to further his agenda of lessening the separation of church and state. Alexis deToqueville was anti-religion and never wrote the words that Hinckley quoted. (The quote originated with Eisenhower and numerous church leaders have since used it.)
In a treaty, written during George Washington‘s presidency that John Adams signed and that Congress voted unanimously for, it states, “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”. Abraham Lincoln stated, “The Bible is not my book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma.” Many of the founders of the nation were as atheistic as people got at the time. A large percentage were Deists (including Paine, Franklin, & Jefferson) who would probably be classified atheists had they been around after Darwin introduced the theory of evolution and after the modern discoveries of astronomy. Some of them were called atheists in their day by those who held similar views to those Hinckley now holds.
See these sites for additional information on the foundation upon which this nation was established.
The Godless Constitution
The Case Against School Prayer
God In Constitution
Quotations from the founders that Support the Separation of State and Church
A Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers
The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians
God On Our Coins
Thomas Jefferson: A UU Perspective
“In God We Trust” Appeal
Hinckley also prayed for the Supreme Court:
“Bless the Supreme Court of the United States, which in recent days has declared unconstitutional a measure designed to secure the religious liberty of the people of this nation. May a way be found under thy divine inspiration to bring to pass another measure which will be sustained by the Court.”
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act which Hinckley apparently thinks is constitutional would permit a wider range of religious activities in public institutions. The wording of the proposal also states that no person or group may “be denied a benefit” due to religious belief. This section is carefully crafted in order to legalize government subsidies for “faith based” social outreaches and other programs which emphasize religious belief. What the Supreme Court correctly ruled unconstitutional, rather than allow religious freedom as the name implies, would have helped do away with the separation of church and state and actually would have allowed the government to give away additional tax dollars to religious programs and organizations. Once enacted by Congress in 1993, churches have attempted to seek exemptions for zoning requirements and landlords have tried to avoid fair housing requirements by denying apartments to unmarried couples. “The [law] is a bold and unprecedented example of federal social policy engineering that commandeers the states . . . to accommodate religion more than the Constitution requires,” Marci A. Hamilton, lawyer for the city of Boerne, Tex., said in a petition to the court.
Justice John Paul Stevens stated, “In my opinion, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) is a ‘law respecting an establishment of religion’ that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. If the historic landmark on the hill in Boerne happened to be a museum or an art gallery owned by an atheist, it would not be eligible for an exemption from the city ordinances that forbid an enlargement of the structure. Because the landmark is owned by the Catholic Church, it is claimed that RFRA gives its owner a federal statutory entitlement to an exemption from a generally applicable, neutral civil law. Whether the Church would actually prevail under the statute or not, the statute has provided the Church with a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain. This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First Amendment.”