After having the Declaration of Independence read to his troops, General George Washington issued the order, July 9, 1776:
“Commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains… – persons of good Characters and exemplary lives – To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises.
The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger –
The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier, defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country…
The peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms.”
On May 2, 1778, General George Washington issued the order to his
troops at Valley Forge:
“The Commander-in-Chief directs that Divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock, in each Brigade which has a Chaplain.
Those Brigades which have none will attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will, by their attendance, set an example for their men.
While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.
To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.”
On November 15, 1862, President Lincoln ordered:
“The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High.”
“‘At this time of public distress,’ adopting the words of Washington in 1776,
‘men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.’”
“The first general order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended:
‘The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.’”
President Benjamin Harrison ordered, June 7, 1889:
“In November, 1862, President Lincoln quoted the words of Washington to sustain his own views, and announced in a general order that –
‘The President, Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service.
The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.’…
To recall the kindly and considerate spirit of the orders issued by these great men in the most trying times of our history, and to promote contentment and efficiency, the President directs that Sunday morning inspection will be merely of the dress and general appearance.”
President Woodrow Wilson gave the order, January 20, 1918:
“The President, commander in chief of the Army and Navy, following the reverent example of his predecessors, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service of the United States.
The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.
Such an observance of Sunday is dictated by the best traditions of our people and by the convictions of all who look to Divine Providence for guidance and protection, and, in repeating in this order the language of President Lincoln, the President in confident that he is speaking alike to the hearts and to the consciences of those under his authority.”
In 1947, the U.S. Corp of Cadets required:
“Attendance at chapel is part of a cadet’s training; no cadet will be exempted.
Each cadet will receive religious training in one of the three particular faiths: Protestant, Catholic or Jewish.”
In 1949, the U.S. Naval Academy required:
“All Midshipmen, except those on authorized outside church parties, shall attend Sunday services in the chapel.”
On AUGUST 17, 1955, President Eisenhower authorized the code of conduct for U.S. soldiers, which stated:
“I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense…
If captured…I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy…
I will never forget I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.
I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.