… the clergy [had] a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the U. S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists … any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me …
To Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are hostile to any “official” religion.
Jefferson referenced the 1798 conflict with France that gave rise to the Sedition Acts. Those allowed punishing any who spoke or wrote against the government. Some reasoned if freedom of speech could be suppressed, why not freedom of religion? He answered with a resounding NO! Both freedoms were guaranteed by the same clause in the Constitution, Amendment One.
Generally, Jefferson supported and encouraged the private efforts of religions, for their moral tenets and social justice. He contributed financially to those efforts. He was absolute death, though, on any effort to give government’s approval to any particular sect. One of his three greatest accomplishments, as recorded by his request on his tombstone, was disestablishing the “official” church in Virginia.
The next to last sentence above is one of Jefferson’s most famous. By “tyranny over the mind of man,” he meant any and all efforts by some to tell others what they must believe. A government-approved church fell squarely into that camp. To them, he pledged “eternal hostility.”
“Your dramatic characterizations…[provided] a format that was exciting,
thought-provoking, and at the same time, very accessible.”
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D. C.
Exciting! Thought-provoking! Accessible! That’s Thomas Jefferson!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739