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Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson, credited with penning the famous “wall of separation between Church and State” on which many secular organization have rested their hopes of eliminating Christianity from the public square, actually believed in a “gate” allowing free passage between the two, according to a researcher who’s reviewed Library of Congress documents.

How else, asked Todd DuBord, senior pastor at Lake Almanor Community Church, could Jefferson as president in 1803 recommended a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians in which U.S. taxpayers promised to pay $100 a year for seven years “for the support of a [Catholic] priest …” and made a commitment that “the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church…”

And how else could Jefferson, as president, have held Christian church services in the executive branch buildings, the U.S. House of Representatives, and even the U.S. Supreme Court chambers? he asked.

“I used to believe in ‘a wall of separation between Church and State,’” DuBord wrote in a compilation of his research prepared for his website. “After researching the religion and politics of Thomas Jefferson in the Library of Congress, I now understand that barrier was a gate Jefferson would often pass through.”

DuBord, who was exposed to the conflict between the actual Christian heritage of the United States and what is being portrayed as the nation’s secular heritage while on a tour of the Washington, D.C., and nearby areas, has researched the nation’s Christian heritage through materials from the Library of Congress, and has been submitting requests that agencies responsible for that information be more accurate.

For example, WND has reported that he’s been campaigning with the U.S. Supreme Court to provide information that the stone tablet in the East Wall Frieze actually represents the Ten Commandments, not the ten amendments as current public information states. His documentation on his website shows historical documents overwhelmingly support the Ten Commandments description.

WND earlier reported on his documentation of the other representations of the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court Building.

His newest research includes pages of documentation of Jefferson’s active support for the teachings of Jesus, even to the point of federal subsidies for the support of missionaries, the construction of churches, the publication of the Bible and other key outreaches.

Now he’s seeking some corrections from the foundation that runs Jefferson’s Monticello home, and offers information to visitors. He noted that on his recent trip, a tour guide, although “cordial and informative about many matters,” became abrupt and even a little “arrogant” when asked about Jefferson’s faith.

“We all know Jefferson was a strict deist, who ardently fought for the separation of Church and State,” the guide announced at the historic site run by the private, nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Foundation, DuBord said.

But DuBord said his research actually supports the concept that Jefferson was more religious than most people know, and “used both his government positions and even funds on occasion to establish churches, distribute biblical information, and promote Christianity.”

“As a result, I am again respectfully requesting that a fuller view of Thomas Jefferson and his intermingling of government and religion (specifically Christianity) be reinvestigated and reintroduced into the Monticello tour guides’ information and education,” he said in his newest request.

Near the end of his life, Jefferson said in letters to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, on June 26, 1822; to William Canby, on Sept. 18, 1813; and to Charles Thomson, on Jan. 9, 1816, that:

 

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man…

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus…

I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.

DuBord explained his research convinced him that Jefferson was opposed to the “tyranny and corruptions” of Christianity, but not to the teachings of Jesus himself. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, he said, “I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others.”


A Jefferson letter calling himself a Christian

DuBord concluded that Jefferson probably was not an evangelical Christian, and probably wasn’t orthodox in most of his doctrine, but he certainly was not “a dogmatic deist with a secular progressive agenda to rid religion (specifically Christianity) from government, as he is often conveyed, even by our tour guide at Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, in July of 2006.”

DuBord said the background from which Jefferson came is important to understanding his dislike of the “business” of Christianity. England had a state-supported church and in Virginia, Jefferson’s home, the Church of England also was funded by taxes.

In his “Notes” from the Library of Congress, it says Jefferson also was exposed to the religious intolerance of the anti-Quaker laws, and suffered the opposition of some church leaders during his presidential campaign.

A friend once noted of Jefferson that he didn’t oppose Christianity, just the “tyranny” different sects imposed on people.

It is within those parameters then, that he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, whose members expressed concern he would endorse a state church:

 

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative power of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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 and State.


Jefferson letter erecting ‘wall’ of separation

DuBord said those words were written in reaction and possibly retaliation to the verbal attacks he’d endured from clergy. In another letter he called them an “irritable tribe of priests.”

But when he was called on to express his beliefs, such as in recommending a seal for the U.S., Jefferson first suggested one that reflected the “children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and Pillar of Fire by night…” DuBord found.

Does such a symbol, he asked, “seem like they could come from those who are ardently in favor of the separation of Church and State?” And from a man, who two days after writing the letter to the Danbury Baptists, would attend a worship service inside the U.S. House of Representatives?

“Can anyone today see a president taking such Christian actions, signing such treaties, or using governmental monies to further ‘promote Christianity’ as Jefferson did?” asked DuBord. “Does his intermingling of religion and politics seem like deeds of the ‘Thomas Jefferson’ so often conveyed today in educational circles and at Monticello?

“If Thomas Jefferson espoused a wall of separation between Church and State, he also breached it, by merging Christianity and politics over and over again,” DuBord said.

He said perhaps the best summary of the relation between government and Christianity during a time when Jefferson was heavily involved in that government comes from the Library of Congress:

 

The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men. The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion in the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government. Although the Articles of Confederation did not officially authorize Congress to concern itself with religion, the citizenry did not object to such activities. This lack of objection suggests that both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity.

Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. National days of thanksgiving and of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” were proclaimed by Congress at least twice a year throughout the war. Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people. This agreement stipulated that they “should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears.” Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.

“While he was an advocate for the separation of the State from aligning with any specific national Church, he was not attempting to neuter government from Christian influence,” DuBord said.

In fact, Jefferson wrote in 1781: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

“While Jefferson conveyed deistic tendencies at times in his writings, denied Jesus’ miracles and deity, and certainly was Unitarian in his theology, his faith was far more complex than ‘strict deism.’ On the other hand, as he wrote to William Short on October 31, 1819, he declared that the teachings of Jesus contained the ‘outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man,’” DuBord said.

To obtain Pastor Todd DuBord’s research with photos on Thomas Jefferson, “A Gate between Church and State,” go to the NationalTreasures.org website.

 


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