Free man, honorary freethinker and unitarian, former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson lived from April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826. During this time he served (among other positions) as 3rd President of the United States of America.
Today we celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, with him ‘in spirit’ (as they say), by taking a look back at Jefferson’s public contributions, in his civic spirit, to the freedoms inherent and obtainable in this great nation. We owe much of our development to Jefferson’s willingness to be the odd man out. In almost constant challenge to the status quo, Thomas Jefferson lived a life that some today consider as having been hypocritical. In fact, Jefferson lived with the kind of impartial thinking that is necessary to social progress and freedom.
Happy Birthday, former President Jefferson and Founding Father of the United States of America.
Statesman, author, inventor, linguist, philosopher– to name only a few of his occupations– Thomas Jefferson was able to play a heavy hand in the philosophical and legal development of the nation we know today. His personal religious beliefs, coupled with his public, civic commitments, played a significant role in the formation and continuance of our secular standard of conduct as a national populace, itself largely influenced by old, often violent, ways of the proclaimed religious (including a reformed Church of England, also having marked history with religion-enabled violence).
Born in the state of Virginia (formerly the Colony of Virginia and His Majesty’s Most Ancient Colloney and Dominion of Virginia) at Charlottesville (in Shadwell), Thomas Jefferson grew up as a British subject in a colonized American state where he enjoyed many privileges . . . including an exceptionally-rounded education. During his youth, he studied at home and in religious primary and finishing schools and ultimately enrolled in a public, Royally funded, religion-required research college.
Later, around the time of the American Revolution, Jefferson worked to modernize his old alma mater by helping to usher it into its future as an elective-study institution sans divinity school– a necessary step in prioritizing reason over variously limiting religious dogmas. This mainstay ideal was made possible via revolution/break from the Royal Crown and the Church of England, and actioned via passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786). The statute “disestablished” the Church of England in Virginia, guaranteeing:
“freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Christians of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.”
The statute was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Its quite notable as well that the Statute for Religious Freedom is “one of only three accomplishments Jefferson instructed be put in his epitaph”.
Read text of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Still later, despite a fairly profound, publicly stated belief in a god, Thomas Jefferson was widely branded an atheist when he showed signs of resistance to the kind of pointed, organized evangelism that can put people off.
During his years of leadership and governance he foremost, regarding religion, sought to preserve freedom of religion for an entire, new, nation by upholding (in the face of an unreasonable Federalist Party and it’s supporters) that religion was a topic between “‘Man’ and his God”, (notice capitalizations) not for clerical interpretation nor that of any other person. Further, that there remain a strict separation of church and state, in order to preserve what is . . . has always been . . . a tenuous freedom of people.
Jefferson spent much of his life committed to defining what it is to be free from the yoke of religious interpretations of others while at the same time free to choose religion, or a religious lifestyle . . . short of infringing on the same freedom for others.
Jefferson, a Democratic Republican, ultimately won enough votes to gain the national presidency two terms running.
- Wikipedia Authors
- Statutes at Large of Virginia, vol. 12 (1823): 84–86.
- Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, January 16, 1786″. Shaping the Constitution. Virginia Memory.
- “The Founding Fathers and Islam (May 2002) – Library of Congress Information Bulletin”. http://www.loc.gov. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
- “Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786)”. http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved 2017-03-17.