Here's how Mrs. Smith described these Capitol religious services:

"I have called these Sunday assemblies in the capitol, a congregation, but the almost exclusive appropriation of that word to religious assemblies, prevents its being a descriptive term as applied in the present case, since the gay company who thronged the H. R. looked very little like a religious assembly. The occasion presented for display was not only a novel, but a favourable one for the youth, beauty and fashion of the city, Georgetown and environs. The members of Congress, gladly gave up their seats for such fair auditors, and either lounged in the lobbies, or round the fire places, or stood beside the ladies of their acquaintance. This sabbathday-resort became so fashionable, that the floor of the house offered insufficient space, the platform behind the Speaker's chair, and every spot where a chair could be wedged in was crowded with ladies in their gayest costume and their attendant beaux and who led them to their seats with the same gallantry as is exhibited in a ball room. Smiles, nods, whispers, nay sometimes tittering marked their recognition of each other, and beguiled the tedium of the service. Often, when cold, a lady would leave her seat and led by her attending beau would make her way through the crowd to one of the fire-places where she could laugh and talk at her ease."

You are also very wrong about James Madison. If you had read the records of Congress, you would know that Madison actually proposed that a clause be added to the Constitution extending the religion clauses embodied in the First Amendment to the states, so he absolutely was not just thinking about the federal government.

Of course, this whole federal or state government argument is completely irrelevant anyway, given that the Air Force Academy is a FEDERAL institution.

You might also want to read up on Madison's vetoes as president. The bills he vetoed did not even come close to establishing a national religion. Nevertheless, he thought they violated the establishment clause. Clearly, James Madison's vetoes -- one to block the incorporation of a church in Washington; another to stop a small piece of federal land from being given to a small Baptist church; and a "pocket veto" to stop a bill exempting a Bible Society from taxes -- show that his intent and application of the First Amendment was absolutely not limited only to preventing a national religion.

Chris Rodda
Senior Research Director
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

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