n JANUARY 1, 1802, the people of Cheshire, Massachusetts, sent
a giant block of cheese to President Thomas Jefferson
, being presented by the famous
Baptist preacher, John Leland
was then invited to
preach to the President and Congress in the U.S. Capitol
. The subject of his talk was
"separation of church and state."
Baptists had been particularly persecuted in colonial Virginia,
as Francis L. Hawks wrote in
"No dissenters in Virginia experienced for a time harsher treatment than the Baptists ...
... They were beaten and imprisoned ...
Cruelty taxed ingenuity to devise new modes of punishment and annoyance."
Baptist ministers were harassed,
and their church services disrupted, that
James Madison introduced legislation
in Virginia's Legislature on October 31, 1785, titled "
A Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship
," which passed in 1789.
"establishment" of the Church of England
, or "
1606 to 1786
to support it; and
-no one could hold public office unless they were a member
Over time, lax enforcement allowed "dissenting" religious groups to enter Virginia, the first being
s, followed by
, then finally
, who considered running for Congress,
wanted an Amendment added to
the new United States Constitution which would
protect religious liberty.
Leland reportedly met with James Madison
near Orange, Virginia.
to introduce what would become the
Leland agreed to persuade Baptists to get involved in politically supporting Madison.
Rights of Conscience Inalienable
, 1791, that they wanted not just toleration, but equality:
Every man must give account of himself to God
, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience.
If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment
, let men be controlled by it in religious matters;
otherwise, let men be free.
was following in the tradition of the Baptist
who fled England to Massachusetts, then fled to found Rhode Island
The situation was that Puritans were persecuted by the established Anglican Church in England. They fled in a Great Migration to Massachusetts, where they proceeded to establish Puritanism.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Lafayette Black wrote in
Engel v. Vitale,
"When some of the very groups which had most strenuously opposed the established Church of England found themselves sufficiently in control of colonial governments in this country to write their own prayers into law, they passed laws making their own religion the official religion of their respective colonies."
who wrote in his
Plea for Religious Liberty,
"The doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience is most contrary to the doctrine of Christ Jesus the Prince of Peace ...
God requireth not a uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state;
which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls."
A few years later, Quaker founder of Pennsylvania
England's Present Interest Considered,
"Force makes hypocrites, 'tis persuasion only that makes converts."
Get the book THE ORIGINAL 13-A Documentary History of Religion in America's First Thirteen States
George Whitefield's First Great Awakening Revival
, 1730-1755, a
Second Great Awakening Revival
took place between 1790-1840.
Thomas Jefferson's county of Albemarle, Baptist, Presbyterian
revival meetings were held.
Jefferson's daughter, Mary
attended a Baptist revival
On July 4, 1826, the editor of the
(Boston, MA) published an account:
"ANDREW TRIBBLE was the Pastor of a small Baptist Church, which held its monthly meetings at a short distance from Mr. JEFFERSON'S house, eight or ten years before the American Revolution.
... Mr. JEFFERSON attended the meetings of the church for several months in succession, and after one of them, asked Elder TRIBBLE to go home and dine with him, with which he complied.
Mr. TRIBBLE asked Mr. JEFFERSON how he was pleased with
their Church Government?
... Mr. JEFFERSON replied, that it had struck him with great force, and had interested him much; that he considered it
the only form of pure democracy that then existed in the world,
and had concluded that it would be
the best plan of Government for the American Colonies.
Thomas F. Curtis wrote in
The Progress of Baptist Principles in the Last Hundred Years
(Charleston, S.C.: Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1856):
"A gentleman ... in North Carolina ... knowing that the venerable
Mrs. (Dolley) Madison
had some recollections on the subject, asked her in regard to them.
She expressed a distinct remembrance of
speaking on the subject, and always declaring that it was
a Baptist church from which these views were gathered.
President Calvin Coolidge
stated at the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1926:
This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson
, who acknowledged that his
'best ideas of democracy' had been secured at church meetings."
During the Revolution, Anglican ministers had sided with King George III, who was head of the Anglican Church.
As a result,
gained courage to migrate
out of the "established" churches
into "dissenting" churches.
Jefferson was baptized, married and buried in the Anglican Church
, as recorded in his family Bible, but
in 1777 he started
a dissenting church named the
Calvinistical Reformed Church.
Jefferson drew up the bylaws
of the church, which met in the
Albemarle County Courthouse
His idea was for it to be a
, supported only by the
of those who attended.
This contrasted with the Anglican model of church support where citizen paid mandatory taxes to the government, which in turn dispensed funds to established churches.
Jefferson's memorandum book
showed he contributed to the evangelical pastor of the
Calvinistical Reformed Church
Rev. Charles Clay
Jefferson also gave generously to missionaries and various other churches:
"I have subscribed to the building of
an Episcopal church
, two hundred dollars,
, sixty dollars, and
, twenty-five dollars."
After the Revolution, the Virginia legislature rewrote its laws, removing all references to the King.
"Dissenting" churches lobbied Jefferson to take this opportunity to "disestablish" the Anglican Church.
responded by writing his
Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom.
fellow member of Jefferson's Calvinistical Reformed Church, Col. John Harvie, introduced the bill in Virginia's Assembly.
It took seven years to pass.
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Justice Hugo Black wrote in
Engel v. Vitale,
"But the successful Revolution against English political domination was shortly followed by intense opposition to the practice of establishing religion by law.
This opposition crystallized rapidly into an effective political force in Virginia where
the minority religious groups
Presbyterians, Lutherans, Quakers and Baptists
had gained such strength that the adherents to
the established Episcopal Church
were actually a minority themselves.
In 1785-1786, those opposed to
the established Church
... obtained the enactment of the famous 'Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty' by which all religious groups were placed on an equal footing."
three of Jefferson's children died, his wife, Martha, died in 1782.
After her funeral,
suffered depression and
withdrew from politics.
In his grief,
he burned every letter he had with his wife
and sequestered himself in his room for three weeks, only venturing out to ride horseback through the hills of his estate.
Martha 'Patsy' Jefferson
, described how he wept for hours:
"In those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion ... a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief ... the violence of his emotion ... to this day I do not describe to myself."
Trying to help, Congress asked
in 1784 to be the
U.S. ambassador to France
was going through a period of "French infidelity"
prior to its bloody French Revolution and Reign of Terror.
Upon returning to America,
entertained liberal "deist-Christian" ideas, though in later life he was described simply as a "liberal Anglican."
finally passed by Virginia's Assembly, January 16, 1786.
So significant was this, that Jefferson noted it on his gravestone as
"The Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom."
Almighty God hath created the mind free
All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments ... are a departure from the plan of
the Holy Author of religion
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
To compel a man
to furnish contributions of money for the
propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves
is sinful and tyrannical ...
Be it enacted ... that
no man shall ... suffer on account of his religious opinions."
Jefferson acquired a Qur'an in 1765
, but after studying it, he
only had praise for the morality of Jesus
, as he wrote to William Canby, September 18, 1813:
"Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern
, which have come under my observation,
none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus
wrote to Jared Sparks, November 4, 1820:
"I hold the
precepts of Jesus
as delivered by Himself, to be
the most pure, benevolent and sublime
which have ever been preached to man."
wrote to Joseph Priestly, April 9, 1803, regarding Jesus:
His system of morality
the most benevolent and sublime probably that has been ever taught
, and consequently more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers."
Jefferson's belief that "
the Holy Author of religion
... chose not to propagate it by coercions" is consistent with an account in the Gospel of John:
"Many of his disciples ... said, 'This is a hard saying; who can hear it?'
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, 'Doth this offend you?'...
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, 'Will ye also go away?'
Then Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.'"
Jesus' example of being willing to let disbelievers voluntarily depart is in stark contrast with the coercion present in
Islamic "ridda" apostasy laws
"Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him."
(Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, No. 57)
Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, narrated by Abdullah:
"Allah's Apostle said, 'The blood of a Muslim ... cannot be shed except ... in three cases ...
the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.'"
(Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 83, No. 17)
Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, narrated by Ikrima, stated:
"Ali burnt some people (hypocrites) ... No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said,
'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'"
(Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 4:260, Vol. 9, Book 84, No. 57)
Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari stated:
"The punishment for apostasy (riddah) is well-known in Islamic Sharee'ah.
The one who leaves Islam
will be asked to repent by the Sharee'ah judge in an Islamic country;
if he does not repent and come back to the true religion, he will be killed
as a kafir and apostate, because of the command of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):
'Whoever changes his religion, kill him.'"
(Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, 3017)
of Rhode Island,
"That religion cannot be true which needs such instruments of violence to uphold it."
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Jefferson's efforts to disestablish the Anglican Church
in Virginia would never have passed had it not been for
Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury splitting the popular Methodist movement away from the Anglican Church
into its own denomination in 1785, forming the Methodist Episcopal Church.
as the first black deacon, and preached the dedication service at
Allen's "Mother Bethel" African Methodist Episcopal Church
Virginia had notable leaders who resisted "disestablishing" the Anglican, or as it was now called, the Episcopal Church, such as
Governor Patrick Henry
This movement was later termed
built its f
irst Jewish Synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome
first Catholic Church, St. Mary Church
, in Alexandria in
John Leland then helped start Baptist churches in Connecticut
--which was a State having
the Congregational Church established from its founding in 1639 until 1818.
Baptists in Connecticut formed the
Danbury Baptist Association
sent a letter to President Jefferson
, October 7, 1801:
"Sir ... Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of
Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals
no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions
the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor
... But Sir ...
, together with the Laws made coincident therewith ... are; that ...
what religious privileges we enjoy
(as Baptists) ...
we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights
Sir, we are sensible that
the President of the united States IS NOT the national Legislator
& also sensible that
the national government CANNOT destroy the Laws of each State;
but our hopes are strong that
of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already,
like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine
& prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth ..."
In other words, Baptists hoped that Jefferson's sentiments which helped
might also help disestablish the
and likewise influence all other States.
"Sir ... we have reason to believe that
America's God has raised you up
to fill the chair of State ...
May God strengthen you
for the arduous task which
& the voice of the people have called you ...
may the Lord preserve you safe
from every evil and
bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator
with his famous letter, January 1, 1802,
agreeing with the Danbury's Baptists
, even repeating sections of their letter almost verbatim:
"Gentlemen ... Believing
religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God
he owes account to none other for faith or his worship
the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions
I contemplate with solemn 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 and State
"Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of
the rights of conscience
I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to
restore man to all his natural rights
, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers
blessing of the common Father and Creator of man."
Baptists were familiar with Jefferson's metaphor
"wall of separation,"
the Baptist founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams
, used it in his
Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Conscience Sake
"Jews under the Old Testament ... and ... Christians under the New Testament ... were both
from the world;
and that when they have opened a gap in the hedge, or
wall of separation, between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world
, God hath ever broken down the wall itself ...
And that therefore if He will ever please to
restore His garden and paradise
again, it must of necessity be
walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world
Jefferson viewed the "wall" as
limiting the federal government from "inter-meddling" in church government
, as explained in his letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808:
the government of the United States as interdicted (prohibited)
by the Constitution
from inter-meddling with religious institutions
, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.
This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment
or free exercise of religion
, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States (10th Amendment) ..."
to prescribe any religious exercise, or
to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General (Federal) government ...
Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises
, and the objects proper for them,
according to their own particular tenets
America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations
Though Jefferson considered the Federal Government limited from "inter-meddling" with what was under States' jurisdiction, it was not limited from spreading religion in Federal territories, as on April 26, 1802,
extended a 1787 act of Congress where lands were designated:
"For the sole use of
Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries
for civilizing the Indians and
And again, December 3, 1803, during
Congress ratified a
treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians
"Whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been
baptized and received into the Catholic Church
... the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward
the support of a priest of that religion
, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible ...
the United States will further give
the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe
in the erection of a church
When Abigail Adams died,
Thomas Jefferson wrote to her husband, John Adams
, November 13, 1818:
"The term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and t
o ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost,
and whom we shall still love
and never lose again
God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction
Twelve years before his death,
shared his personal views to Miles King, September 26, 1814:
"We have heard it said that there is not a
on entering that gate
, we leave those
badges of schism behind ...
Let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths
we shall all meet in the end
. And that you and I may meet and embrace, is
my earnest prayer
brilliant legal minds have used Jefferson's words to prohibit Jefferson's beliefs
wrote in the Declaration:
"All men are endowed by their
yet in 2005,
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones,
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
, ruled students could not be taught of a
: "to preserve the separation of church and state."
Groups used Jefferson's phrase "separation of church and state" to remove national acknowledgments of God,
despite Jefferson's warning against that very thing.
Inscribed on the
Washington, DC is
who gave us life gave us liberty.
Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."
DVD The Real Intent of Jefferson on Separation of Church & State
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