Family Research Council

What the Founders Really Did on Religious Liberty

By Bob Morrison Senior Fellow for Policy Studies

The Founders of our country considered religious liberty our "first freedom." In their view, it was the bedrock upon which all other freedoms rest.

Why? They understood that one's right to worship God and follow his conscience according to the principles of his religious faith was foundational to all morality. A man whose religious faith was repressed could never be a loyal citizen, since the state was usurping his first allegiance and costing him his primary, or first, freedom.

George Washington's motto was, "Deeds, not Words." He lived it: During the Constitutional Convention, he rarely spoke, and those who knew him well noted his courtly, almost diffident manner. Yet his actions -- his leadership during the Revolution, his policies and practices as our first President, and his well-reputed example as a man of prayer and reverence -- spoke to a measure of conviction few American statesmen have ever come close to matching.