List of Presidential Religious Affiliations (by President)
For each president, the formal affiliation at the time of his presidency is listed first, with other affiliations listed after. Further explanation follows if needed, as well as notable detail.
- George Washington – Episcopalian
- Main article: George Washington and religion
- John Adams – Unitarian, originally Congregationalist
- The Adamses were originally members of Congregational churches in New England. By 1800, most Congregationalist churches in Boston had Unitarian preachers teaching the strict unity of God, the subordinate nature of Christ, and salvation by character. Adams himself preferred Unitarian preachers, but he was opposed to Joseph Priestley's sympathies with the French Revolution, and would attend other churches if the only nearby Congregational/Unitarian one was composed of followers of Priestley.
- Adams described himself as a "church going animal".
- Thomas Jefferson – no specific affiliation
- Main article: Thomas Jefferson and religion
- Jefferson was raised Anglican and served as a vestryman prior to the American Revolution, but as an adult he did not hold to the tenets of this church.
- Modern Unitarians consider Jefferson's views to be very close to theirs. The Famous UUs website says:
- "Like many others of his time (he died just one year after the founding of institutional Unitarianism in America), Jefferson was a Unitarian in theology, though not in church membership. He never joined a Unitarian congregation: there were none near his home in Virginia during his lifetime. He regularly attended Joseph Priestley's Pennsylvania church when he was nearby, and said that Priestley's theology was his own, and there is no doubt Priestley should be identified as Unitarian. Jefferson remained a member of the Episcopal congregation near his home, but removed himself from those available to become godparents, because he was not sufficiently in agreement with the Trinitarian theology. His work, the Jefferson Bible, was Unitarian in theology..."
- In a letter to Benjamin Rush prefacing his "Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus", Jefferson wrote:
- "In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798–99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other."
- James Madison – Deism/Episcopalian
- Although Madison tried to keep a low profile in regards to religion, he seemed to hold religious opinions, like many of his contemporaries, that were closer to deism or Unitarianism in theology than conventional Christianity. He was raised in the Church of England and attended Episcopal services, despite his personal disputes with the theology.
- James Monroe – Episcopalian/Deism?
- Monroe was raised in a family that belonged to the Church of England when it was the state church in Virginia, and as an adult attended Episcopal churches.
- "When it comes to Monroe's ...thoughts on religion", Bliss Isely comments in his The Presidents: Men of Faith, "less is known than that of any other President." Monroe burned much of his correspondence with his wife, and no letters survive in which he discusses his religious beliefs; nor did his friends, family or associates write about his beliefs. Letters that do survive, such as ones written on the occasion of the death of his son, contain no discussion of religion.
- Some authors conclude that Monroe's writings show evidence of "deistic tendencies".
- John Quincy Adams – Unitarian
- Adams's religious views shifted over the course of his life. In college and early adulthood he preferred trinitarian theology, and from 1818 to 1848 he served as vice president of the American Bible Society. However as he grew older his views became more typically Unitarian, though he rejected some of the views of Joseph Priestley and the Transcendentalists.
- He was a founding member of the First Unitarian Church of Washington (D.C.). However he regularly attended Presbyterian and Episcopal services as well.
- Towards the end of his life, he wrote, "I reverence God as my creator. As creator of the world. I reverence him with holy fear. I venerate Jesus Christ as my redeemer; and, as far as I can understand, the redeemer of the world. But this belief is dark and dubious."
- Andrew Jackson – Presbyterian
- He became a member of the Presbyterian Church about a year after leaving the presidency.
- Martin Van Buren – Dutch Reformed
- Van Buren is reported to have attended the Dutch Reformed church in his home town of Kinderhook, New York, and while in Washington, services at St. John's Lafayette Square.
- His funeral was held at the Reformed Dutch Church in Kinderhook with burial in a family plot at the nearby church cemetery
- William Henry Harrison – Episcopalian
- Harrison was a vestryman of Christ Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, Ohio after resigning his military commission in 1814.
- John Tyler – Episcopalian
- Although affiliated with the Episcopal church, he did not take "a denominational approach to God." Tyler was a strong supporter of religious tolerance and separation of church and state.
- James K. Polk – Methodist
- Polk came from a Presbyterian upbringing but was not baptized as a child, due to a dispute with the local Presbyterian minister in rural North Carolina. Polk's father and grandfather were Deists, and the minister refused to baptize James unless his father affirmed Christianity, which he would not do. Polk had a conversion experience at a Methodist camp meeting when he was thirty-eight, and thereafter considered himself Methodist. Nevertheless he continued to attend Presbyterian services with his wife, though he went to the local Methodist chapel when she was ill or out of town. On his deathbed, he summoned the Rev. John B. McFerrin, who had converted him years before, to baptize him.
- Zachary Taylor – nominally Episcopalian
- Although raised an Episcopalian and married to a devout Episcopalian, he never became a full communicant member in the church.
- Millard Fillmore – Unitarian
- Franklin Pierce – no specific affiliation (later Episcopalian)
- James Buchanan – Presbyterian
- Buchanan, raised a Presbyterian, attended and supported various churches throughout his life. He joined the Presbyterian Church after leaving the presidency.
- Abraham Lincoln – no affiliation
- Main article: Abraham Lincoln and religion
- Life before the presidency
- Some believe that for much of his life, Lincoln was a Deist.
- Rev. Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian church in Washington D.C., which Lincoln attended with his wife when he attended any church, never claimed a conversion. According to D. James Kennedy in his booklet, "What They Believed: The Faith of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln", "Dr. Gurley said that Lincoln had wanted to make a public profession of his faith on Easter Sunday morning. But then came Ford's Theater." (p. 59, Published by Coral Ridge Ministries, 2003) Though this is possible, we have no way of verifying the truth of the report. The chief evidence against it is that Dr. Gurley, so far as we know, never mentioned it publicly. The determination to join, if accurate, would have been extremely newsworthy. It would have been reasonable for Dr. Gurley to have mentioned it at the funeral in the White House, in which he delivered the sermon which has been preserved. The only evidence we have is an affidavit signed more than sixty years later by Mrs. Sidney I. Lauck, then a very old woman. In her affidavit signed under oath in Essex County, New Jersey, February 15, 1928, she said, "After Mr. Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley told me that Mr. Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements with him and the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to be received into the membership of the said church, by confession of his faith in Christ, on the Easter Sunday following the Friday night when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated." Mrs. Lauck was, she said, about thirty years of age at the time of the assassination.
- John Remsburg, President of the American Secular Union, argued against claims of Lincoln's conversion in his book Six Historic Americans (1906). He cites several of Lincoln's close associates:
- The man who stood nearest to President Lincoln at Washington – nearer than any clergyman or newspaper correspondent – was his private secretary, Col. John G. Nicolay. In a letter dated May 27, 1865, Colonel Nicolay says: "Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any way change his religious ideas, opinions, or beliefs from the time he left Springfield to the day of his death."
- After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."
- Andrew Johnson – no affiliation
- Some sources refer to Johnson having Baptist parents. He accompanied his wife Eliza McCardle Johnson to Methodist services sometimes, belonged to no church himself, and sometimes attended Catholic services—remarking favorably that there was no reserved seating.
- Ulysses S. Grant – Presbyterian, Methodist
- Grant was never baptized into any church, though he accompanied his wife Julia Grant to Methodist services. Many sources list his religious affiliation as Methodist based on a Methodist minister's account of a deathbed conversion. He did leave a note for his wife in which he hoped to meet her again in a better world.
- In his 1875 State of the Union address, during conflicts over Catholic parochial schooling, Grant called for a constitutional amendment that would require all states to establish free public schools while "forbidding the teaching in said schools of religious, atheistic, or pagan tenets; and prohibiting the granting of any school funds or school taxes... for the benefit... of any religious sect or denomination." The proposed Blaine Amendment to the Constitution followed.
- Rutherford B. Hayes – no affiliation
- Hayes came from a Presbyterian family, but attended Methodist schools as a youth.
- Many sources list him as Methodist; in general, however, it is agreed that he held himself to be a Christian, but of no specific church.
- In his diary entry for May 17, 1890, he states: "Writing a few words for Mohonk Negro Conference, I find myself using the word Christian. I am not a subscriber to any creed. I belong to no church. But in a sense, satisfactory to myself and believed by me to be important, I try to be a Christian, or rather I want to be a Christian and to help do Christian work."
- Hayes' wife, Lucy, was a Methodist, a temperance advocate, and deeply opposed to slavery; He generally attended church with her.
- James Garfield – Disciples of Christ
- He was baptized at age eighteen.
- Through his twenties, Garfield preached and held revival meetings, though he was never formally a minister within the church.
- Chester A. Arthur – Episcopalian
- His father was a Baptist preacher.
- Upon his wife's death in 1880, he commissioned a memorial window for the south transept of St. John's, Lafayette Square, visible from the White House and lighted from within at his behest.
- Grover Cleveland – Presbyterian
- Benjamin Harrison – Presbyterian
- Harrison became a church elder, and taught Sunday school.
- Grover Cleveland – Presbyterian
- William McKinley – Methodist
- Early in life, he planned to become a Methodist minister.
- James Rusling, a McKinley supporter, related a story that McKinley had addressed a church delegation and had stated that one of the objectives of the Spanish-American War was "to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them". Recent historians have judged this account unreliable, especially in light of implausible statements Rusling made about Lincoln's religion.
- McKinley is the only president to include exclusively Christian language in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation.
- Theodore Roosevelt – Dutch Reformed
- Roosevelt always stated that he was Dutch Reformed; however, he attended Episcopal churches where there was no Reformed church nearby. (His second wife Edith was Episcopalian from birth.) As there was no Dutch Reformed church in Oyster Bay, New York, he attended Christ Church Oyster Bay when in residence there, and it was in that church that his funeral was held.
- His mother was Presbyterian and as a child he attended Presbyterian churches with her.
- William Howard Taft – Unitarian
- Before becoming president, Taft was offered the presidency of Yale University, at that time affiliated with the Congregationalist Church; Taft turned the post down, saying, "I do not believe in the divinity of Christ."
- Taft's beliefs were the subject of some controversy, and in 1908 he found it necessary to refute a rumor that he was an atheist.
- Woodrow Wilson – Presbyterian
- Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister and professor of theology.
- Prior to being Governor of New Jersey and President of the United States, Wilson served as President of Princeton University, which was at the time affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
- Warren G. Harding – Baptist
- Calvin Coolidge – Congregationalist
- Herbert Hoover – Quaker
- As Quakers customarily do not swear oaths, it was expected that Hoover would affirm the oath of office, and most sources state that he did so. However, a Washington Post article dated February 27, 1929, stated that he planned to swear, rather than affirm, the oath.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt – Episcopalian
- Harry S. Truman – Baptist
- Dwight D. Eisenhower – Presbyterian
- Eisenhower's religious upbringing is the subject of some controversy, due to the conversion of his parents to the "Bible Student" movement, the forerunner of the Jehovah's Witnesses, in the late 1890s. Originally, the family belonged to the River Brethren, a Mennonite sect. According to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, there is no evidence that Eisenhower participated in either the Bible Student group or the Jehovah Witnesses, and there are records that show he attended Sunday school at a River Brethren church.
- Until he became president, Eisenhower had no formal church affiliation, a circumstance he attributed to the frequent moves demanded of an Army officer. He was baptized, confirmed, and became a communicant in the Presbyterian church in a single ceremony February 1, 1953, just 12 days after his first inauguration, the only president to undergo any of these rites while in office.
- Eisenhower was instrumental in the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 (an act highly promoted by the Knights of Columbus), and the 1956 adoption of "In God We Trust" as the motto of the USA, and its 1957 introduction on paper currency. He composed a prayer for his first inauguration, began his Cabinet meetings with silent prayer, and met frequently with a wide range of religious leaders while in office.
- His presidential library includes an inter-denominational chapel in which he, his wife Mamie, and his firstborn son (who died in childhood) are buried.
- John F. Kennedy – Roman Catholic
- Kennedy is the only Catholic president.
- Lyndon Johnson – Disciples of Christ
- Richard Nixon – Quaker,
- Contrary to Quaker custom, Nixon swore the oath of office at both of his inaugurations. He also engaged in military service, contrary to the Quaker doctrine of pacifism.
- Gerald R. Ford – Episcopalian
- Jimmy Carter – Baptist
- In 2000, Carter criticized the Southern Baptist Convention, disagreeing over the role of women in society. He continued to teach Sunday School and serve as a deacon in his local Baptist Church.
- Ronald Reagan – Presbyterian
- Reagan's father was Roman Catholic, but Reagan was raised in his mother's Disciples of Christ denomination and was baptized there on September 21, 1922. Nancy and Ronald Reagan were married in the Disciples of Christ "Little Brown Church" in Studio City, California on March 4, 1952. Beginning in 1963 Reagan generally attended Presbyterian church services at Bel-Air Presbyterian Church, Bel-Air, California. During his presidency he rarely attended church services, due to the inconvenience to others in the congregation. He became an official member of Bel-Air Presbyterian after leaving the Presidency. Reagan stated that he considered himself a "born-again Christian".
- George H. W. Bush – Episcopalian
- Bill Clinton – Baptist
- Clinton, during his presidency, attended a Methodist church in Washington along with his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is Methodist from childhood.
- George W. Bush – Methodist
- Bush was raised in the Episcopal Church but converted to Methodism upon his marriage in 1977.
- Barack Obama – unaffiliated Christian
- Obama's resignation from Trinity United Church of Christ in the course of the Jeremiah Wright controversy ended more than 20 years of affiliation with the United Church of Christ.. As President he has attended several different Christian churches.
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