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The Religious Affiliation of
James Polk
U.S. President


James Knox Polk: Polk's wife was a devout Presbyterian, but Polk converted from Presbyterianism to Methodism. A week before he died, he was baptized as a Methodist, affirming his longstanding preference for Methodist theological positions. More, from "The American President" (http://www.americanpresident.org/KoTrain/Courses/JP/JP_Family_Life.htm):
Although Polk was a religious man, his faith seldom equaled the stern beliefs of Sarah's outspoken devotion. Raised a Presbyterian, Polk had never been baptized due to an early family argument with the local Presbyterian minister in rural North Carolina. At age thirty-eight, Polk had a religious conversion to Methodism at a camp meeting, and thereafter he thought of himself as a Methodist. Out of respect for his mother and wife, however, he continued to attend Presbyterian services. But whenever his wife was out of town, or too ill to attend church, Polk worshiped at the local Methodist chapel. On his deathbed, he summoned the man who had converted him years before, the Reverend John B. McFerrin, who at last baptized Polk as a Methodist.

From: Peter Roberts, "James Knox Polk" page in "God and Country" section of "Science Resources on the Net" website (http://www.geocities.com/peterroberts.geo/Relig-Politics/JKPolk.html; viewed 29 November 2005):
Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian, Methodist?

Summary of Religious Views:
Polk's father and grandfather were deists, which prevented James from being baptized as a child (the minister refused to baptize James unless his father reaffirmed his faith, which he would not do), and eventually led to the Polk family's move from North Carolina to Tennessee. Polk's mother, on the other hand, was a strong Presbyterian, and her influence seems to have had a more lasting effect on Polk. Polk was a regular church-goer throughout his life, most often attending Presbyterian services (his wife's faith), but he did not formally join any church until, on his deathbed, he joined the Methodist church.

Quotations:
"It [the US Government] is a common protector of each and all the States; of every man who lives upon our soil, whether of native or foreign birth; of every religious sect, in their worship of the Almighty according to the dictates of their own conscience; of every shade of opinion, and the most free inquiry; of every art, trade, and occupation consistent with the laws of the States." -- Inaugural Address, 4 March 1845

"One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression." -- Inaugural Address, 4 March 1845

Webpage created 11 August 2005. Last modified 29 August 2005.
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