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The Meaning of Thanksgiving and the Separation of Church and State - Article Example

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The writer of this paper states that while contemporary formulations of Thanksgiving characterize it as a secular holiday, it wasn’t always this way. Indeed, the original incarnation of Thanksgiving was as thanks to god for the abundant harvest…
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The Meaning of Thanksgiving and the Separation of Church and State
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 In Mourt’s Relation, Edward Winslow writes, “And although it is not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty (Winslow).” The first official proclamation of Thanksgiving was by George Washington in 1789 and it contained an overtly religious message. Washington said that Congress implored him, "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

However, Thomas Jefferson refused to deliver a Thanksgiving proclamation and one of the primary reasons was because he believed it violated the policy of separation of church and state. As is evidenced by the above-referenced material the majority understanding of Thanksgiving was clearly as a religious holiday and Jefferson’s rejection of it on the national scale would be similar to a contemporary President embracing Easter for the expressed celebration of Jesus resurrection. It’s worth noting that Jefferson did issue a Thanksgiving proclamation as a governor, a fact some historians attribute to Jefferson’s understanding of the constitution as restricting matters of religion in the Executive Branch but leaving them open for interpretation on the state level. Yet this didn’t step other Presidents from drawing connections between religion and Thanksgiving well into the 20th century. Read More
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