Monday, January 25, 2010

Thomas Jefferson's Proudest Accomplishments

I have mentioned Thomas Jefferson many times in this blog. Probably his most common mention here is because he once used the phrase "separation of church and state" in a letter, and that phrase somehow has become our de facto guide to the meaning of the Constitution's First Amendment religion clauses. But does it really mean what some people take it to mean? Did Jefferson mean that there can be no governmental recognition or accmomodation of religion? Read on...

Of course, Thomas Jefferson is know for a great many things. But what did Jefferson himself consider his greatest accomplishments? Certainly not the letter mentioned above. At the age of only 33, he penned the words of the Declaration of Independence. Now that is definitely one for the history books! He was proud enough of that work to have it chiseled into his headstone. Sharing the honor (after the Declaration) is his authorship of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and his role as father of the University of Virginia.

The statute was a law that, among other things, specified a fine for working on the sabbath.

And consider his work as president of the University of Virginia (a state institution).

The following was previously posted as Jefferson's Actions Speak Louder than a few of His Words:

In order to accommodate and perpetuate the religious beliefs and practices of students at the university, he recommended that students be allowed to meet on the campus to pray, worship, and receive religious instruction, or, if necessary, to meet and pray with their professors.

He provided in his regulations for the University of Virginia that the main rotunda be used for religious worship under the regulations allowed to be prescribed by law.

He proposed that all University of Virginia students be required to study as a matter of ethics "the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all relations within morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer."

See a photo of Jefferson's gravestone here:
Thomas Jefferson’s Greatest Achievement

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