Thomas Cooley, of Michigan Law School, on Religion in U.S.


American Minute with Bill Federer


The dean of the University of Michigan Law School was Thomas Cooley, who died SEPTEMBER 12, 1898. Thomas Cooley was Chief Justice of Michigan’s Supreme Court, President of the American Bar Association and the first Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission. His commentaries were influential in shaping American law.

He declined offers to teach at Hastings College of Law, University of Texas, Johns Hopkins University, Boston Law School, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell Law School. In Constitutional Limitations, Eighth Edition, Volume Two, p. 966, 974, Thomas Cooley stated:

“While thus careful to establish, protect, and defend religious freedom and equality, the American constitutions contain no provisions which prohibit the authorities from such solemn recognition of a superintending Providence in public transactions and exercises as the general religious sentiment of mankind inspires, and as seems meet and proper in finite and dependent beings.”

Cooley continued:

“Whatever may be the shades of religious belief, all must acknowledge the fitness of recognizing in important human affairs the superintending care and control of the great Governor of the Universe, and of acknowledging with thanksgiving His boundless favors, of bowing in contrition when visited with the penalties of His broken laws.”

In his General Principles of Constitutional Law, 1890, Thomas Cooley wrote:

“It was never intended by the Constitution that the government should be prohibited from recognizing religion, or that religious worship should never be provided for in cases where a proper recognition of Divine Providence in the working of government might seem to require it, and where it might be done without drawing an invidious distinction between religious beliefs, organizations, or sects.”

Thomas Cooley continued:

“The Christian religion was always recognized in the administration of the common law of the land, the fundamental principles of that religion must continue to be recognized in the same cases and to the same extent as formerly.”


The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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