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JAMES ABRAM GARFIELD
[Library of Congress]
20th President (1881)
Education: Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College); Williams College
Occupation: College Professor, College President
Political Affiliation: Republican
Organizational Affiliation(s): Mason
Religious Affiliation: Disciples of Christ
Summary of Religious Views:
In his early adulthood, Garfield sometimes preached and held revival meetings.
Views on Religion & Politics:
"I not only never introduced such a resolution as that to which you refer -- but in several public speeches I have praised the wisdom of our fathers for prohibiting Congress from legislating on the subject of religion -- and leaving it to the voluntary action of the people." -- letter to Robert G. Ingersoll, 9 July 1880, denying claims that he had introduced legislation in support of government support for religious education.
"Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation, or of the States, to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of the Church and the State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute." -- letter accepting the presidential nomination, 12 July 1880
"The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom. Congress is prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Territories of the United States are subject to the direct legislative authority of Congress, and hence the General Government is responsible for any violation of the Constitution in any of them. It is therefore a reproach to the Government that in the most populous of the Territories the constitutional guaranty is not enjoyed by the people and the authority of Congress is set at naught. The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law.
"In my judgment it is the duty of Congress, while respecting to the uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every citizen, to prohibit within its jurisdiction all criminal practices, especially of that class which destroy the family relations and endanger social order. Nor can any ecclesiastical organization be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of the National Government." -- Inaugural Address, 4 March 1881
"Fellow Citizens! Clouds and darkness are around Him! His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne! Mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives!" -- Supposedly from a speech in response to Lincoln's assassination given by Garfield in New York in April of 1865. But Garfield was not in New York in April of 1865. (See the discussion in Paul F. Boller & John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, Oxford Univ. Press, 1989, p. 32.)
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