Friday, January 23, 2009

Thomas Jeffersons Inaugural Addresses and Religion

While the Inauguration of our 44th President, let's examine some quotes from previous Inaugurals. Here are quotes from each of Thomas Jefferson's Inaugural addresses.

Thomas Jefferson was our 3rd President. In his First Inaugural (1801) he said:

"...freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person..."

Note that his words used "freedom of religion," not "separation of church and state" to paraphrase the First Amendment. This is consistent with other of his writings.

The complete address is here

From Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural (1805)

"...In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies..."

Note that he leaves religious exercise to various authorities, including the states! This was the general understanding at the time, not that religion is to be kept away from the public sphere, but simply that the Federal Government must not try to control it.

Read the whole address here

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