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Thomas Jefferson: The misremembered Founding Father

He was once a universally respected American Founding Father, but in recent years Thomas Jefferson has turned into somewhat of a punching bag for the left.

“Today, there’s no greater heel in history, no greater jerk than Thomas Jefferson,” historian David Barton noted sadly during a recent appearance on Daystar television.

Students at the University of Missouri, who attend school on land Jefferson added to the United States, last year demanded an on-campus statue of Jefferson be removed because of Jefferson’s “offensive” history as a slave owner.

Likewise, students at the College of William & Mary, Jefferson’s alma mater, demanded their campus statue of the “racist” and “incestuous rapist” Jefferson be removed from campus.

What’s more, media members have suggested the Jefferson Memorial needs to be taken down and Jefferson’s image should be removed from the nickel, all because the third president owned slaves.

“They want Jefferson gone out of everything,” Barton said. “They don’t ever want an American to see or hear the word ‘Jefferson’ again, and that’s all based on misperceptions.”

Barton, the founder and president of WallBuilders, attempted to correct some of the misperceptions about Jefferson in his book,  “The Jefferson Lies,” which was published for the second time this year. He said it’s important to remember Jefferson’s true history.

“The problem is, when you change your history, you change your public policies to correspond to that,” he said. “[It’s like] what you see in the Book of Judges, 2 Samuel, so many others – you change the way you see your history and you will change your national behavior, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

Barton asserted Jefferson’s detractors have it wrong on the issues of race and slavery.

“They say [he was a racist] because Jefferson owned slaves, and there’s no question he did. But because they don’t search any further, they don’t find, for example, that he was one of the leading anti-slavery voices in American history,” Barton revealed.

He noted Jefferson made multiple attempts to ban slavery, both as a Virginia legislator and as a member of the newly formed U.S. Congress. Jefferson’s book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” contained a chapter that called slavery a moral evil. What’s more, black civil rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. praised Jefferson for his belief that “all men are created equal.”

Regarding Sally Hemmings, the slave with whom Jefferson is believed to have had a sexual relationship, initial reports said a 1998 DNA study provided definitive proof that Jefferson had fathered Eston Hemmings, Sally’s youngest son. However, Barton noted the lead researcher later retracted his claim that he had found conclusive proof, saying the DNA test indicated about a one-in-eight chance Jefferson was Eston’s father.

Another major myth about Jefferson that Barton tackles in his book is Jefferson’s alleged commitment to a “wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson did indeed write those words in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, but the wall to which he referred is not the same type modern-day liberals wish to erect, according to Barton.

“In that letter, he said separation of church and state means the government can’t stop a religious activity,” Barton said.

He noted Jefferson’s actions do not suggest a man who believed religion should have no place in government. In 1800, Congress decided to hold weekly worship services in the Capitol and Jefferson, who as vice president served as president of the Senate, supported the idea. In fact, he attended those services in his last few weeks as vice president and throughout his eight-year presidency. When a preacher asked him why he attended so often, Jefferson replied, according to Barton, that he wanted to set a positive example for the American people.

“So you’re telling me that Jefferson wanted a secular country, that he didn’t want the word ‘God’ said at graduation, that he didn’t want the Bible in schools?” Barton asked rhetorically.

Marcus Lamb, founder and president of Daystar Television Network and host of the program on which Barton appeared, urged his audience to go out and buy “The Jefferson Lies.”

“Every pastor in America needs to read this,” Lamb proclaimed. “Every schoolteacher in America needs to read this, and parents, you need to read this because we lose so many of our kids when they go off to college, they get their secular professors, many of them are atheists.

“This [book] is going to help a lot of young people to not then be blindsided when they get some atheist professor with revisionist history.”