Apr 12

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The third President of the United States was Thomas Jefferson and he served from 1801 – 1809. Jefferson was educated at the College of William and Mary and was described as “the penman” of the America Revolution! He also served as Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. In 1784, he went to France as a member of a trade commission and a year later, he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister of France. He was in France for five years! It is believed that his greatest achievements while in office as the third President was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803; this more than doubled the size of the United States!
With the above before us, let us turn our attention to what Jefferson thought about the Bible and where it belonged in America. First, let us note that within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church service in the House of Representatives! Did you get that? The “church service” was “in the House of Representatives!” Would this be allowed today? Another interesting point is that throughout his administration, Jefferson permitted church services in the executive branch buildings and the gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers! This action appears to be at odds with his view, that there should be “a wall of separation between church and state.” Just what did Jefferson mean by the words, “a wall of separation between church and state?” He was apparently declaring his opposition, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, to a “national” religion. However, he did not have in mind what is set forth today, as it is believed he and Madison were by attending worship services on public property, consciously and deliberately, offering support to religion as a prop for republican government! Let us here go a little further with this thought. Just where did the phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state,” first appear? It was in a letter written by Jefferson, on January 1, 1802, in reply to an address of congratulations from the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association. In his letter, he used for the first time now, so now well-known phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state.” If you would, please notice the order of the words used by Jefferson, he put the word “church” first, followed by the word “state.” Therefore, it appears to me, that he put forth that he was showing, that the “church” should not be setting forth rules and laws for the “state.” Had he used the words in the reverse order, he would have meant, or he would have been showing his concern that the “state” should not be setting rules and laws for the “church!” Today, this has reached the point, of using these two words, “church” and “state,” in the reverse order; in that the “state” has been making rules and laws for the “church!” Neither are right!
Nevertheless, many in the United States, including the courts, have used this phrase to interpret the “Founder’s” intentions regarding the relationship between the government and the “church,” as set forth in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …” as declaring a “separation between the church and the state, in the broadest terms! The three key words are “establishment of religion.” First, what does the word “establishment” means? Here is what the word means: “the act of forming something.” Question, does it mean that government, when allowing worship service in a government building or on government land, serves as “the act of forming religion?” The answer is no!
Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs are not easy to state but he was religious. He wrote: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” He did not believe in much of the New Testament; nevertheless, Henry S. Randall, a Jefferson biographer, wrote that Jefferson “attended church with as much regularity as most of the members of the congregation — sometimes going alone on horseback, when his family remained at home.”
The final question, does a person who regularly worshiped with a congregation, find it, repulsive, in what he has no belief in, does a person regularly associate with people whom he has nothing in common? The answer to these questions is answered in one word, No!

Frank R. Williams
(Editor’s note, we will have more on Thomas Jefferson in the next article.)

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