Like most of the Founding Fathers, George Washington saw the importance of religion as a necessary component of human happiness, a healthy society and sustained good governance. Washington’s views were largely due to his own beliefs regarding both religion and governance.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Washington’s beliefs included God as the “great Lord and Ruler of the world.” His certainty of the need for all to thank God openly and publicly, as the Puritans had in the early days of colonial life, led to the institution of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Some of his other writings and speeches can leave no doubt of his advocation of religion in society and government, without the federal government favoring or persecuting any religion. The concept of no federal control over religion was shared by the majority of the Founders, including Thomas Jefferson.