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Does Thanksgiving Breach the First Amendment?

Our third and sixth Presidents thought so, according to this bit of Thanksgiving history from the Library of Congress:

The first President of the United States, George Washington, proclaimed November 26, 1789 to be a day of national thanksgiving and prayer after receiving Congressional requests for such a decree… Thanksgiving failed to become an annual tradition at this time. Only Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison declared national days of thanks in their terms. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams considered the practice to infringe upon the separation of church and state. Governors, on the other hand, particularly in the New England states, regularly issued proclamations of thanksgiving.
We've all heard the debates on whether posting the Ten Commandments or a nativity scene in a federal building defies the Constitution, but I’ve never personally heard anyone argue against Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. So I was surprised to learn that creating the American holiday of Thanksgiving wasn’t as easy as gorging on that second slice of pumpkin pie. It took the destruction caused by the Civil War for it to occur annually. Seriously. Read more or just view the timeline at the LOC’s Learning Page.
Or embarrass the youngins at the kids table by reading aloud Washington’s 1789 letter.

-Andrew Steinitz

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 21, 2006 4:26 PM.

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