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home : opinion : opinion April 29, 2016

1/8/2013 6:00:00 AM
Kingman Letter: Jefferson and religion

The belief that Thomas Jefferson was a deist who founded the University of Virginia as a secular institution devoid of Christianity, clergy and Christian professors is patently false. The first error is repeating today's academic writers who, rather than using original source material, quote each other's false statements. Jefferson's own words alone dispel this academic malpractice.

America's universities contained three similarities, all founded on one particular denomination, president and clergymen the same. Illustrative is Harvard, 1636, Congregationalist; William and Mary, 1692, Yale, 1791, Anglican; Princeton, 1773, Presbyterian; and College of Rhode Island (Brown), 1764, Baptist.

Jefferson and his board founded the University of Virginia as a trans-denominational school, causing modern critics to wrongly believe it was secular. Thirty years prior, the Anglican Church alone was legally acknowledged in Virginia, so Jefferson penned the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, putting all churches on equal footing. It was on this he founded the U of VA, saying, "In conformity with the principles of our Constitution which places all sects on equal footing...we have proposed no Professor of Divinity."

Presbyterian Clergyman Samuel Knox, who penned similar beliefs, was selected as first faculty member - all others being of various denominations with none deists or Unitarians. Fees were waived for students studying for Gospel ministry - a preferential treatment.

Jefferson personally directed "teaching the proofs of the being of God, Creator, Preserver and Supreme Ruler of the Universe ... author of all morality ... and the laws and obligations these infer," also directing teaching of Biblical Hebrew, Greek and Latin so students could study the "earliest and most respected authorities on the Christian Faith." The library was stocked with Christianity's greatest writings and the Rotunda was designated for religious services students were expected to attend.

Jefferson's words: "provision is made for giving instruction in ... the earliest and most respected authorities of the faith of every denomination ... developing those moral obligations in which all sects agree."

So common became the trans-denominational approach, de Tocqueville wrote, "The sects existing in the U.S. are innumerable ... within the great unity of Christianity."

Linda Athens


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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

I highly recommend David Barton's new book "The Jefferson Lies". It surely must be David's finest. If you want the truth about Jefferson with all original source notes, this is the book to get. Ordered on line it will arrive very quickly.

This is a gem!! Stop believing the lies of the left who have made one of our finest, Thomas Jefferson, into a liar and a rapist. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are confusing him with Bill Clinton.

Ignore the lies on here about David Barton. Read him for years and years - one of the finest men America has ever produced. David gives his all - has not an ounce of malice in him unlike ONE PERSON ON HERE WHO CONSTANTLY KNOCKS HIM. We need a thousand more just like him.

Foreward by Glenn Beck.

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

I thought word counter showed my comment at exactly 300 - no time to re-write since I save nothing.

I will post the following:

When construction on the U of VA began in 1817, a special prayer was offered at the laying of the cornerstone. This was not only done in the presence of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, Jefferson and his Visitors made the plans and approved the prayer which follows:

“Almighty God, without invocation to Whom no work of importance should be begun, bless this undertaking and enable us to carry it on with success – protect this college, the object of which institution is to instill into the minds of youth principles of sound knowledge, to inspire them with the love of religion and virtue, and prepare them for filling the various situations in society with credit to themselves and benefit to their country.”

Please note, this prayer that Jefferson set up and approved states TO INSPIRE THEM WITH THE LOVE OF RELIGION AND VIRTURE.

You do not state that the building of something of importance is nothing without God being involved is not said over secular events.

Your original post that there was no religion (and it was always Christianity with the Founders) at the U of VA has been proven to be completely false information. Case closed.

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

very, very briefly here --- although the documents Dr. Hurd quotes were written more than a century after what I have been describing as the relevant context (Thirty Years War, very close-run confrontations between Catholic & Protestant forces in Britain, etc.), it remains that in most cases, the Founding Fathers' pro-genitor family members emigrated to the American colonies precisely at those times in the 1600's. Therefore, that context is relevant in this discussion - which is to say this, that the context is very different today. As a nation, we could - if we wished - review that context in which Jefferson and the others wrote, note that we have no recent historical context of religious tyranny, wars, and continent-wide illiteracy, and all of this with a view to being more welcoming to faith which has been demonstrated as relieving some of this society's pressing problems (just look at the statistics on America's drugs problem, for example).

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

The tyranny of church authority Knox speaks of was a reference back to England.

Knox was offered the first position at the U of VA, due to a misunderstanding, he did not get the information in time and that is the true reason he did not take the position. Word limit kept me from posting that - he was the FIRST offered however and was most definitely a Christian.

Knox wrote a text against Joseph Priestly and Unitarianism and Knox is the one Jefferson patterned the U of VA after - all denominations welcome - all on an equal footing.

(Samuel Knox, The Scriptural doctrine of future punishment vindicated : in a discourse from these words, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Math. XXV, & 46th. : To which are prefixed some prefatory strictures on the lately avowed religious principles of Joseph Priestley, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c. &c. Particularly in a discourse delivered by him in the church of the Universalists, in Philadelphia, and published in1796. --Entitled: "Unitarianism explained and defended" &c (Georgetown: Green, English & Co., 1796).)

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

[Comment deleted for excessive length]

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Dr. GS Hurd

A brief note on Samuel Knox (1756–1832)

Knox shared the 1796-7 American Philosophical Society prize for an essay on the best way to structure a national educational system for the new nation. Knox is widely quoted from the 1799 published version, “It is a happy circumstance peculiarly favorable to an uniform plan of public education that this country hath excluded ecclesiastical from civil policy, and emancipated the human mind from the tyranny of church authority and church establishments.” His longer pamphlet, "A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson and a Statement of His Services in the Cause of Religious Liberty" followed in 1800. In his 1803 publication, "Essay on the Means of Improving Public Instruction" (1803) he insisted that there should be no religious requirements for teachers just as there were none for elected civil offices. He was also adamant on the separation of church and public education.

Unlike the claim from Ms. Athens, Knox was never a faculty member of the University of Virginia. Although he was offered the position of Professor of Classics there, he remained in Maryland.

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Article comment by: Dr. GS Hurd

Remembering that Jefferson's "An Act for establishing religious Freedom" was drafted in 1777, and introduced to the Virginia Assembly 1779, we should ask why wasn't it passed until 1786?

There were two reasons according to competent historians Another revolutionary hero, Patrick Henry introduced a bill in 1784, "A Bill Establishing A Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion." This would have established a law to assess a tax against all the citizens of Virginia to support churches. The "liberalization" he sought was a "plural establishment" allowing citizens to nominate which church they wished the tax to go toward. Of the major sects, only the Quakers and Mennonites actively rejected the proposal.

The Bills by Jefferson, and Henry were directly opposed to each other. This impasse was broken by a third revolutionary war hero, James Madison, who is seen as responsible for the successful passage of Jefferson's Religious Freedom Act in 1786. James Madison wrote and circulated his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" in late 1785. It is in full at the following URL:

Madison offered 15 counter arguments to Patrick Henry's move to have tax supported, established religions. Several of these should be reviewed as they are directly related to the false positions published by Ms. Athens. The 300 word count limit requires these be broken up into several comments.

(Of course it would be best if people took the time to actually read the original documents, as Ms. Athens insists. It is equally obvious she does not follow her own advice).

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

@Lori Hyphenated

"Who cares."

And, of course, the areas know it all athiest chimes in early, as she always does.

"People have gotten much wiser over the centuries, and believe more in science, than in a mystical, mythical god."

Yes. Nowadays some people believe in Saucer Gods. All based on scientific evidence, right Lori? LoL

"We can only speculate what the Founding Fathers said, did, and were responsible for in the distant past."

So the founding fathers were in the "distant past", huh? Of course, no writing of theirs have survived the looooooong trip through time, right Lori? How long ago did your saucer Gods bestow their wisdom on mankind? And you of course have the proof of that, right Lori?

Saucer Gods love me, this I know
'Cause Von Danniken tells me so


Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Dr. GS Hurd

Jefferson also remarks in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1743 -- 1790 the following,


"On the 1st of June 1779. I was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth and retired from the legislature. Being elected also one of the Visitors of Wm. & Mary college, a self-electing body, I effected, during my residence in Williamsburg that year, a change in the organization of that institution by abolishing the Grammar school, and the two professorships of Divinity & Oriental languages, and substituting a professorship of Law & Police, one of Anatomy Medicine and Chemistry, and one of Modern languages and the charter confining us to six professorships, we added the law of Nature & Nations, & the Fine Arts to the duties of the Moral professor, and Natural history to those of the professor of Mathematics and Natural philosophy."

To review, Jefferson was adamant that the Religious Freedom Act extended to any, or all religions. He was proud that as a Governor, and trustee of William and Mary College, he was able to do away with the Divinity faculty and replace them with science, and law. This was well before the founding of the nonsectarian University of Virginia.


Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Dr. GS Hurd

To prevent any confusion, Jefferson obesrved in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1743 -- 1790 the following,


"The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination."

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Dr. GS Hurd

Read the original

"An Act for establishing religious Freedom"

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, introduced to the Virginia Assembly 1779, passed 1786.

Commentary at:

"... that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry, that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right, ..."

"Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened (sic) in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities."

"... we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right." Transcription by ARCHIBALD CARY, BENJ HARRISON. Citation: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), "An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom," 16 January 1786, Manuscript, Records of the General Assembly, Enrolled Bills, Record Group 78, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.


Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens


The Old and New Testament go hand in hand. The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New such as the book of Hebrews in the NT. They are interwoven, cannot be separated.

The OT fortells of a Savior coming (most Jews still waiting as they did not recognize Jesus as their Savior) and if you read Isaiah 53, you will understand "He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes (He was whipped 40 times) we are healed" is referring to Jesus Christ on the cross.

Egypt was a type and shadow of bondage - coming out of Egypt and walking to the promised land, now Israel, is a type and shadow of our going from bondage to the liberty of the Savior. It is all perfectly bound together and is so mind boggling, at times I can scarcely believe how perfect the two books fit together.

OT verses are all through the NT and vice versa.

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Article comment by: Nice Chuckle

"I see the usual lefty mantra of God is not in the Declaration, so the Founders wanted a secular and centralized society!

You people do realize that all of these Progressive ideals you keep ramming down the public's throat, are the very ideas that the Founders were scared to death of, don't you?"

To say nothing about this poster's need to ram their religion down my throat, something the Founders were also seeking freedom from.

Face it, God is not in the Declaration nor the Constitution. And it is that way for a reason.

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Article comment by: Not Going To Work

So they want to require background checks for individuals buying ammo. I wonder how they figure that is going to work? I personally pick up brass when I'm out shooting in the desert so I can take it home and reload it. I even wonder how many reloaders there here in Kingman? I know at least a dozen. I guess if you shoot .22 shells you'll have to stand in line to fill out your paperwork, then wait to see if they are going to approve your request to go shoot tin cans!

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Ombudsman the Gun Lover

* Chuckle

""You folks sure need to have your eyes checked, not me. God, as in the God from the Bible, is NOT mentioned in the Declaration. Creator is, Nature's God is, and such terms as those. Those can refer to any deity. That dog won't hunt, as you say.""

I see the usual lefty mantra of God is not in the Declaration, so the Founders wanted a secular and centralized society!

You people do realize that all of these Progressive ideals you keep ramming down the public's throat, are the very ideas that the Founders were scared to death of, don't you?

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Ombudsman the Gun Lover

Be happy. The Socialist Utopia is just around the corner. Higher taxes for all, then there's Obamacare taxes, with less doctors for all. Next come your guns. All hail Obamy! Utopia is at hand!

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Crime Does Pay:

The particular one I referred to was from Joyce Meyers during one of her sermons/speeches this week. However, this type thing is legion all over our country.

Christianpost.com reports a similar one:

“Bless you.” For uttering those words, a student at Wm C Wood HS in Vacaville, CA was punished this week by a teacher who claimed it disrupted his classroom. "It's not...religion...it's an interruption..".he said and rather than issue a warning to the student that he does not like anyone saying bless you or God bless you, teacher Cuckovich instead took 25 points off the student's grade, the better to deter others from saying it or other religious phrases that offend his sensibilities.

He further explained the blessing makes no sense anymore - he felt it was started by a belief when you sneezed, evil spirits were leaving you and you were bidding the person a blessing for being rid of them.

Parents of the student disagree with the extreme punishment with no warning for simply saying bless you.

"First, the Pledge of Allegiance (the teacher does not allow it either) and now this" the Father said. "I think it's ridiculous".

Personally, I would say there IS an evil spirit there and his name is Mr. Cuckovich.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Ms Athens

Your post in no way defends your position that Genesis is a “Christian” book of the Bible.

“I wonder if you are aware in Genesis 1:26…”

Yes, I am and it has nothing to do with your statement, “The Founders and Framers understood their God created all of nature, the heavens and the earth right out of THEIR book of Genesis …”.

The Book of Genesis was not the property of the founding fathers and had been written long before there were Christians or Jesus Christ.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

@LA.....yes, as one example of your comments on religious institutional and social proscriptions in 16th & 17th century England, John Milton's father evicted him from the family house for possession of a Bible. But it is also true that Cromwell cited Biblical references to slaughter 500,000 Irish, and to perform other "cleansings". King Gustavus Adolphus confronted Catholic armies under Tilly wearing a breastplate inscribed with "Jehovah" (Hebrew for "God"). After Adolphus was eventually killed at Breitenfeld (where, nonetheless, arguably the greatest Protestant victory of the Thirty Years War was achieved), his successor, Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, wrote to his military-aged son - "Do you not realise, my son, with what little wisdom the world is run?" It seems that America's founders sought a wisely-constructed government. Beyond that, I am not personally familiar with documentation which clearly establishes that effort as fundamentalist Christian as it is understood today. Having said this, the brevities required here may do disservice to the convictions those men actually possessed, as well as those held by the American colonists.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Yes BM: The Torah or Pentateuch - first five books of the Bible by Moses ie: the Law.

The Law came thru Moses, grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. He came to fulfill the law, not replace it. Good News indeed for no human could keep the law. That was God's point. We NEEDED that Savior who came to save us from that law. NT

I wonder if you are aware in Genesis 1:26, Moses writes:

"And God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth".

And he refers to US in other places in Genesis. So you might wonder why God didn't say let me make man in MY image. Because there were two there - God the Father and God the Son - Jesus. And undoubtedly the Holy Spirit, the power behind all the making. Three in one - a Triune God - He becoming man in the form of Jesus to come down and really reveal Himself to us, and lead us into salvation.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Crime Does Pay

" Recently, a little girl said God Bless You when a fellow first grader sneezed. She was admonished by her teacher that it was unconstitutional for her to say God Bless You - it might cause someone to believe in her God."

Source please!

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Steve McCall:

I loved your analogy of the screw and the nail. It brought up all sorts of other things in my little pea brain.

First, like how much money we waste going thru government programs to buy people food, free lunches etc. Waste and fraud abound. Needy people become greedy people.

What if we just went back to the old Bible belief of taking care of a neighbor in need. Skip the government program - walk next door with a roast and bag of potatoes. Or everybody going to the church of their choice every week and that church keeping a pantry - member hungry? They can get food there. The Mormons do this I understand.

What really came to me was - today I heard there is a movement to "norm" pedophilia. A few years back, we all knew homosexuality was shunned by God and was abnormal. Like trying to drive a nail in with a screw driver, their brand of sex works, but so much more inefficiently than the way God designed it.

Today we are marrying homosexuals in the National Cathedral, every TV show has a few gays - completely accepted.

Now we are being told pedophilia is normal for some and in some cases, good for the children. Or as the story ended, some kind of love is better than no love at all. We used to call them both sin. We now call them a different type of love. Christians don't go along, we are homophobes and now pedophobes. I am reminded of a picture of Jesus with a tear dripping out of His eye.

Time for a visit from on high I am thinking....praying.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens


They not only included Christianity in some small form in our founding, the entire foundation of our country is decisively Christian.

The three branches of our Republic are patterned after Israel - Executive, Judicial, Legislative.

England's state run religion was crammed down their throats but they were not allowed to practice their own Christianity. We don't realize but they were treated very badly and had to go underground to do so.

The American Revolution had a motto. No King but King Jesus. They fought it for their own freedom of religion AND because, as Christians who were in bondage in England, they were absolutely opposed to having slavery thrust upon them by the Brits. Being Christian, coming from what they had been thru, they understood the horrors of not being free - thus abhorred slavery.

Few Founders had slaves - those who did like Jefferson and Washington inherited them and the law kept them from setting them free. GW received his first slaves at 11 years old, later when his Mother died, he got more.

He had twice as many as were needed to care for his land so took a loss every year in taking good care of all of them. Hating selling humans, he one time sold a few, felt so evil doing so he swore no matter how much too many put him in the hole, he would never, ever sell another human. Remember, this was a novelty for the entire world had slavery, the muslims being the worst offenders. l

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Ms Athens

“Nature's God always referred to the God of the Christian Bible. The Founders and Framers understood their God created all of nature, the heavens and the earth right out of their book of Genesis …”

You mean the Book of Genesis as detailed in The Torah, or the first five books of the Tanakh, and written on a scroll by a sofer in Hebrew on parchment and originally written, according to some sources, in 1312 BCE thereby preceding Christianity by more than a thousand years? Or are you referring to another Book of Genesis?

“And no, they were DEFINITELY not speaking of a wiccan god. That would be satan who they would have referred to as the great destroyer.”

And you base that information on …. ?

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

This may seem a little off-topic, but the historical context of America's Founding Fathers' religious expressions was Europe - where the very survival of non-Catholic beliefs had been a very close-run affair. England's Henry II, his daughter Elizabeth I, and Sweden's King Gustavus Adolphus handed us the (Christian) religious diversity of today (all right, I left out Cromwell and some others, but that 300-word limit here). But the manner in which this took place, including the Thirty Years War, may have given pause to the theoreticians of America's founding documents. Maybe it should be considered a wonder that they included religious references in any form!

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