This is from 1888. I had no idea this argument had been going on for so long:
Showing That the Founders of Our Government Were God-Fearing and Praying Men.
It seems as easy to believe bad things about a body of men, as it is to believe them about one man. Indeed, it is somewhat easier. For, if there is even a small portion of charity in our make-up, we will exercise it in favor of one whom we are afraid to slander, whereas we will receive and repeat the same story about a congregation, a convention, or a congress without fear or qualm. And if it is a body of dead men, their reputations are absolutely at our mercy. The classic exhortation, to speak nothing about the dead but praise, is rarely heeded after the first burst of post-mortem eulogy.
It is quite the custom for instance, to think and say that the members of the Continental Congress were not devout men, that they had no regard for prayer as an aid to their deliberations, that they did not take God into the account in discussing the measures and results of the revolution. This is an offense to all believers in a gracious Providence, and it is also a foul libel on the political fathers.
We are gratified, therefore, to note that the learned Judge Bacon, of Utica, N.Y., in a recent historical paper of great general value, has corrected this false and unjust estimate of the Continental Congress. He shows how, on the 7th of September, 1774, when the real business of the body was to begin, a formal request was made for an opening prayer by Rev. Mr. Duche and that gentleman was thanked by resolution for his “excellent” services.
This is more consideration than some modern assemblies show to the divine who invoke God’s blessing on their deliberations. Afterward that same Congress, at ten different times, appointed days for fasting and thanksgiving. The last order of that kind was voted late in October, 1781, when December 15 was declared a day for thanksgiving and prayer on account of Cornwallis’ final overthrow.
When that order was entered, a further evidence of devotion was given by Congress going in a body to the Dutch Lutheran church in Philadelphia, there “to return thanks to Almighty God for crowning the allied armies of the United States and France with success, by the surrender of the whole British army under the command of the Earl Cornwallis.”
Now let the reader call these historic facts to mind, the next time he hears it said that the founders of our Government were not God-fearing men; or that the foundations of the Republic were not laid in prayer.
Spirit Lake Beacon (Spirit Lake, Iowa) Sep 14, 1888
More on the First Prayer in Congress HERE
*Note: I am not affiliated with the above website, I just ran across it when looking for an image and noticed they had more on this topic.