Thomas Jefferson was - and still is - regarded as one of the most intelligent intellects ever known to man. Former President John F. Kennedy stated this best when he addressed Nobel Prize Winners at a dinner in 1962:
- I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8623 (Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, last accessed Sept. 5, 2014)
In 1802, then-President Jefferson wrote a letter to the Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut:
- I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof', thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists, The Final Letter, as Sent (1802) available at http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html
By no means does this infer or give evidence to the theory that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist, or at the very least, a religious skeptic. He was raised an Episcopalian, and brought up his children as such. He was known to read the bible daily. It was believed that at some point he no longer ascribed himself to Christianity. That led to a rumor that all the elderly women hid their Bibles in their wells when he became President. There are various books that have a Deist.1 (i.e.: Henry Childs Merwin, Thomas Jefferson 8 - 9 (Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1901). ) Even that does not stand up to scrutiny! He actually at one time propose a bill for public fasting and Thanksgiving while in the Virginia legislature. Mark A. Beliles & Douglas S. Anderson, Contending for the Constitution 66 (2005).
Many of his published papers and other documents underline his strong belief in God. Some of these are:
- A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; . . ..". Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, July 1774 Papers 1:121--35 available at http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch14s10.html
- Virginia Bill for Establishing Courts later known as the Judiciary Act of 1789: Jefferson proposed a requirement that witnesses must state at the end of their oath, "So help me God." Beliles and Anderson, supra at 66 - 67 (2005).
- Declaration of Independence, 1776: ". . . [T]he separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, . . .. . . . We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The Declaration of Independence para. 1 - 2 (U.S. 1776).
- Act for Establishing Religious Freedom for Virginia, 1786: "Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, . . .". Heritage Foundation, First Principles: Primary Sources / Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/virginia-act-establishing-religious-freedom (last accessed Sept. 5, 2014).
If the dead could turn over in his/her grave, Thomas Jefferson would be turning as fast as a tornado concerning the intolerant secularism which seen today. Beliles and Anderson, supra at 67. Rather, he accepted and defended the interests of the church in cases where it was involved. Beliles and Anderson, supra at 62. Jefferson also spoke on behalf of Presbyterian and Baptist ministers from the Commonwealth of Virginia who desired an equal playing field where no one denomination was shown favor. Beliles and Anderson, supra at 63.
~KellyJaye, as written for my Legal Studies classes at Liberty University (so I plagiarized myself).
1 A Deist is considered having a perspective (rather than a religion) that attests all knowledge of God comes through in one owns understanding, experiences and reason, not by any theology professed by man. Catherine Beyer, Deism http://altreligion.about.com/od/alternativereligionsaz/p/Deism.htm (last cessed Sept. 5, 2014).