"On January 1, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, who had requested clarification about the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Jefferson described the Establishment Clause of First Amendment by writing, “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 prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
"There may not be any fireworks or family gatherings today, Religious Freedom Day. Most of us have never even heard of it. This is as remarkable as it is tragic, since it recalls an event that has profound significance for our contemporary debates over the proper role of religion in public life. The Day was created by Congress in 1991 to recognize the enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. It has been commemorated by presidential proclamation every year since.
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth was created in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson. He was seventy-seven years old when he constructed his book by cutting excerpts of the New Testament Gospels from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin and Greek. Jefferson edited and arranged the passages in a chronological order to tell the story of Jesus’s life, parables and moral teachings.
"I recently wrote that the Christian Right does not want us to think about Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the enactment of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. The bill is widely regarded as the taproot of how the founding generation sought to reconcile the relationship between religion and government.
The (No) ‘Establishment’ Clause by Ronald Thomas West
There is little question the American founders were, without exception, ‘believers’ in a supreme deity or that is to say “God.” Their commonality of belief ends with that statement. The (no) ‘Establishment’ clause of the anti-federalist founders (as opposed the ‘Federalist’ founders) enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, derived from a consensus there could never be any one religion in supremacy in these United States.
I have great need of the indulgence so kindly extended to me in your favor of December 25, of permitting me to answer your friendly letters at my leisure. My frequent and long absences from home are a first cause of tardiness in my correspondence, and a second the accumulation of business during my absence, some of which imperiously commands first attentions. I am now in arrear to you for your letters of November 12, 14, 16, December 3, 19, 25.
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"Thomas Jefferson left strict instructions for how he was to be remembered on his gravestone: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, Father of the University of Virginia.”
That statute for religious freedom embodied the ideals that would later become a foundation of American law in the First Amendment of the Constitution:
An Act for establishing religious Freedom.
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;
that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,
Why Church-State Separation is Important to Believers and Non-Believers
Virginia Chapter of Americans United
September 27, 2008
Rev. Cedric A. Harmon