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DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER
[Library of Congress]
34th President (1953-1961)
Education: U.S. Military Academy, West Point
Political Affiliation: Republican
Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian
Summary of Religious Views:
Eisenhower's family background was Mennonite (River Brethren), and he was raised in an intensely religious home environment. There are stories in circulation that when Eisenhower, as youth, suffered a life-threatening infection, the family prayed day and night over him, but family members insist such stories are greatly exaggerated, and that the overall level of prayer did not appreciably increase. Eisenhower himself called such accounts "ridiculous."
Eisenhower was the first president to officially join a church while in office: on 1 February 1953, he became a member of the National Presbyterian Church.
Views on Religion & Politics:
The words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the Eisenhower administration.
"When we came to that turning point in history, when we intended to establish a government for free men and a Declaration and Constitution to make it last, in order to explain such a system we had to say: "We hold that all men are endowed by their Creator."
"In one sentence we established that every free government is imbedded soundly in a deeply-felt religious faith or it makes no sense. Today if we recall those things and if, in that sense, we can back off from our problems and depend upon a power greater than ourselves, I believe that we begin to draw these problems into focus.
"As Benjamin Franklin said at one time during the course of the stormy consultation at the Constitutional Convention, because he sensed that the convention was on the point of breaking up: "Gentlemen, I suggest that we have a word of prayer." And strangely enough, after a bit of prayer the problems began to smooth out and the convention moved to the great triumph that we enjoy today--the writing of our Constitution.
"Today I think that prayer is just simply a necessity, because by prayer I believe we mean an effort to get in touch with the Infinite. We know that even our prayers are imperfect. Even our supplications are imperfect. Of course they are. We are imperfect human beings. But if we can back off from those problems and make the effort, then there is something that ties us all together. We have begun in our grasp of that basis of understanding, which is that all free government is firmly founded in a deeply-felt religious faith." -- Remarks at the Dedicatory Prayer Breakfast of the International Christian Leadership, 5 February 1953
"In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war." -- Flag Day speech, signing bill authorizing addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, 14 June 1954
Q. Hazel Markel, Mutual Broadcasting System: "Mr. President, I have a biographical question. I think it is pretty generally known that your parents were deeply religious, and I think a number of articles which have been written on your family have stated that they were very strong pacifists, and some other statements have been made that both of them objected to your being a soldier. I interviewed a gentleman yesterday who said that you had corrected him on that; that your father had not objected at all, that it was only your mother who had objected. I wonder if that is true, if you care to comment, and also if she finally was reconciled to it."
THE PRESIDENT: "Well, of all the kinds of questions that I never expected to go into here--[laughter]--would be to go back that far into my family life.
"All such things are normally exaggerated, except the one that they were deeply religious people. They were also rebels in religion. They would join here, and go out to some other place very soon. They had their own religion. It is true that my mother finally became a member of an organization which had definitely pacifistic tenets in its program; but I think that it would be enough to say about my father's belligerency that he was Pennsylvania Dutch and he had all the temper of a Pennsylvania Dutchman; there was nothing pacifist about him. [Laughter]
"I have also heard that my mother objected strenuously to my going to West Point. I know that she even at that time believed that the world didn't have to go to war, believed it very passionately; but she never said one single word to me." -- News Conference, 7 July 1954
"Well, of course we do have this in our Constitution: the church and the state are not to be brought together; therefore there have been all sorts of rulings that affect the teaching of religion in school. However, I have always felt that the history of religion ought to be taught, because as a historical fact religion has had the effect with us of giving us the undergirding for our whole system of civilization." -- Television Broadcast: "The People Ask the President", 12 October 1956
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