Ever notice how Thomas Jefferson is styled today as a ‘Deist’???

People today celebrate the ‘separation of Church and State’, even though that’s not actually in the Constitution.  They hail Jefferson’s phrase in one letter he wrote once.  What people often don’t know is that Jefferson had religion, and it’s evidenced in the documents he wrote.  Two accomplishments which Jefferson held most dear were the authorships of the Declaration of Independence, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

We’re all familiar with the preamble to the Delclaration of Independence “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Why were we declaring independence from Great Britain?  Hmmm?  Because of the oppressive British government under King George.  King George, simply put, thought that he was God and that he bestowed rights on the people in America, because they were subjects of the British Crown.  This statement from the Declaration of Independence shows that our forefathers knew better, and is a statement of where our rights come from.  Jefferson put it very nicely…God gives us our rights.

Jefferson’s second crowning achievement, in his mind, was the Virginia Staute for Religious Freedom, which reads:

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

that though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

and finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Based on his life and his writings, Jefferson was a God-fearing man. It is true that he didn’t want anyone subject to state-based religion, which is what England had since the Protestant Reformation, but it is entirely not true that Jefferson didn’t believe in God himself, nor is it true that Jefferson did not worship said God.  Jefferson advocated that Church and State should be separate.  Not that they shouldn’t work together, and not that State should erase all evidence of God from its documents.

Our country is in trouble because of how our Supreme Courts have interpreted the constitution.  In many decisions, they were right, but in many, they were wrong, too.  Look where the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade has gotten us.  Does it really say in the Constitution that a person can do whatever they want with their body?  Does it really say that a person can do to another body anything they want?  Anyway, there was Someone else who said “This is my Body, which is given up for you…”  If we truly believe in a Creator, who’s body is it really?


3 thoughts on “Ever notice how Thomas Jefferson is styled today as a ‘Deist’???

  1. The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the principle reflected by the Constitution (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) and, indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in the First Amendment where the point is to confirm that each person enjoys religious liberty and that the government is not to take steps to establish religion and another provision precluding any religious test for public office. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that is the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defendedpromote the religious views of others. By keeping government, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

  2. The Fathers, if we are to believe their writings, did not intend for Church and State to be separate. Where do you think our laws are based??? Shariah? The truth is that the British Crown used religion as a bludgeon, as did other European governments, to the point where, if you weren’t of a certain faith you couldn’t live in a certain town. In England’s case, they persecuted Catholics and confiscated Catholic Church property. The Founding Fathers left us free to worship any way we want to, Buddhism, Islam, Unitarian, Catholic, Orthodox, Judaism, whatever, but based our laws on the Torah, whence we get the 10 Commandments at the Supreme Court building. State-sponsored religion is what’s frowned on. It’s not for the state to say “We’re Baptist, so you should be.” This in no way prohibits the State from adopting the 10 Commandments as the basis for its law, and applying it. The 10 Commandments are based on natural law. In fact, even the first Commandment does not say “You shall worship me (God)”, it says “You shall worship the Lord your God…” In context it means the God of Israel, but as a block of rules, it can mean to each individual whatever it means to them.

    Thanks for your comment, though.

  3. Pingback: God, Slaves, and Women in the Constitution - Christian Forums

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