Back on February 6, 2007, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia sponsored a program that was titled, Washington: Devout or Deist. Peter R. Henriques, author of Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington was a selected participant on the program along with Pastor Peter A. Lillback, author of George Washington’s Sacred Fire, and Jana Novak, co-author of Washington’s God. John J. DiIulio of the University of Pennsylvania served as the program moderator. (DiIulio has recently written a book, Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future, which proposes a bipartisan approach to faith-based policy-making.)
I made a special effort to attend, because Peter R. Henriques had given me an indication that if the opportunity arose, he would say a few words as to whether George Washington had added "So help me God" to his presidential oath. I was with my wife, Paula, and my fellow investigator, Matthew Goldstein. We were totally surrounded by two bus loads full of members from Pastor Lillback's Proclamation Presbyterian Church. By looking around, I imagined that everyone in the audience supported Lillback's repeated claims in his book that Washington appended "'So help me God' to his presidential oath of office (see Sacred Fire: pg 224, "The second religious precedent;" pg. 307, "Washington took the oath of office;" pg 418, "Probably the most startling example;" and pg. 504, "Washington clearly did not avoid." )
DiIulio did an excellent job as the moderator, and I was fascinated by the discussion that ensued under his direction.
Readers, who remember Jonathan's Positive Liberty blog, Marshall, Lillback, and Washington, will want to hear the discussion that took place. A podcast is available here. If the listener pays attention to the conversation as it develops from 28 minutes onwards, you'll see that Professor Henriques found an opening to challenge the notion that Washington had added a religious codicil to his oath of office.