Jefferson on religious freedom and “Mahometans.”

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, wrote in his autobiography of the process of creating that statute:

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.

Perhaps somebody could pass this on to Rep. Virgil Goode? He does, after all, represent Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. If he’s going to reject one of Jefferson’s crowning achievements, he ought to do so with full knowledge of what he’s doing.

(Via Mahablog)

20 thoughts on “Jefferson on religious freedom and “Mahometans.””

  1. Did Goode suggest that any people should be denied their right to practice religion? I have to admit that I didn’t see the press conference. I took his letter to mean that he wants fewer Muslims to immigrate here. But that isn’t the same thing as rejecting freedom of religion.

    You are free to say that you disapprove of something I believe without any suggestion that you want to keep me from doing what I do. It might be a minor point, and maybe it still reflects badly on Goode, but it seems like an important distinction.

  2. Waldo, we were on the same wavelength last night: see my post on Raising Kaine, “Virgil Goode vs. Thomas Jefferson”

    Re: Laura’s comment, Goode was disgusted by the idea of Rep. Ellison using his own holy book to be sworn in on. That’s a pretty strong rejection of Muslims to worship as they choose, IMHO.

  3. Is Thomas Jefferson a Registered Voter? No. Then, I don’t think it matters that the UVA icon’s home is Monticello. I know how you Democrats love to use dead folks in elections but throwing TJ in there is a bit absurd.

  4. I wonder if TJ ever imagined hearing calls to prayer in an American city (Dearborn, MI); maybe he would simply think of them as human church bells! As evidenced in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, Islamic extremism is more likely a threat to our freedoms than the Christian Right. While I’ve seen many comments regarding what TJ would say about the Chrisitian Right and it’s influence in our government, I haven’t seen anyone discussing Islamic influence.
    Since Jefferson is quiet on the subject, I guess this is Goode’s “shot across the bow.”

  5. Muhammed said “Kill any Jew you can lay your hands on.”

    …and we’re talking about Virgil?! Waldo, how can you tolerate that form of bigotry.

    Virgil Goode said “I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States”…uh no shit.

  6. Now Ben M. you don’t want us to go and bring out all those nasty little segments from the Bible condoning slavery (new testament), condemning the heretics and pagans; condoning, encouraging, participating in genocide . . . oh we could go on and on.

    How can you tolerate such hatred and vile and violence in your own good book?

    Or do you wish to sweep under the rug the rampant anti-Semitism and violent oppression that the European Christian churches practiced from their very first days?

    Where exactly do you think the impetus for the Holocaust came from? Did it just pop out of the wood work?


  7. 1) The call to prayer is a human churchbell. If Dearborn, Michigan’s noise ordinances permit churchbells, they should permit the azar, provided that it is no louder, and both calls should be held to rules that apply to secular public noise. This is an argument that would strike anyone familiar with John Locke as a standard one. Why is secular law so hard for political conservatives to understand? Oh, I know. Because they’re really ultranationalists. Or, effectively, children. By the way, thanks to the miracle of microchip technology and GPS, Muslims don’t really need the azar.
    2) Muhammed said that? Funny. Doesn’t really sound like the Prophet of a religion that had a pretty healthy relationship with Jews until the late 19th century and the rise of Jewish nationalism. I mean, Baghdad was at least one-fifth Jewish for much of its Islamic history. There’s more Hebrew blood on the hands of European and Christian societies than on any Islamic polity. So, unless I get the same quote from a more trustworthy source, I’d have to think that it’s fabricated by someone with an agenda like yours.

  8. But Ben M. I love you man.

    Please keep it up. Its people like you that allowed us to kick the Repub.’s asses so bad in Nov. Its also because of people like you that the generic Democrat leads the generic Republican by 8 points for 08.

    Proofs in the pudding, keep up the good work.

    I suppose the one bad thing is people who think like you have gotten us stuck in the worst strategic cluster-fuck this country has ever experienced . . . oh well, I suppose us “peace at any cost types” just don’t get it.

  9. Jon, Let me get this right. You’re telling me it’s OK to say “Kill every Jew you can lay your hands on” right? Do you believe that too? ’cause you sure seem to be defending Islam in a very convincing way.

    Brian C.B. – The truth hurts: “When they reached the Apostle of Allah, Allah bless him; he said (Your) faces be lucky. They said: Yours too, O Apostle of Allah! They cast his head before him. He (the Prophet) praised Allah on his being slain. When it was morning, he said: KILL EVERY JEW WHOM YOU COME ACROSS. The Jews were frightened, so none of them came out, nor did they speak. They were afraid that they would be suddenly attacked as Ibn Ashraf was attacked in the night. (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol.2, p.37).

  10. Ben M.

    the point is that if you’re going to use that passage to claim that all muslims want to murder jews, then you’re also going to have to claim all sorts of weird-ass crazy stuff about Christians because of numerous bizaare bible passages.

    claiming either of those things would make you an idiot.

  11. Wait, you’re using a biography of the Prophet, a third-person anecdote regarding the taking of a specific act of personal vengeance by his partisans in the seventh century, to claim that there is a divine command to kill Jews everywhere? You understand the difference between the Q’ran and these other texts? You’d be just as crazy to claim that the taking of Canaan by Yeshua is a command to Jews and Christians to kill all Arabs.

    Nah. I’ll hang back on the 1200 years or so of Muslim-Jewish co-existence during which every Islamic city in the Arab or Ottoman world had a sizeable Jewish quarter and a synagogue. Not to mention a current world full of pious Muslims the bulk of whom seem, weirdly, not trying to kill all Jews.

  12. Mr. M.

    Are you a Protestant?

    Here is some guidance from Martin Luther:

    “What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? Since they live among us and we know about their lying and blasphemy and cursing, we cannot tolerate them if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy. . . . .We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity. . . . . Let me give you my honest advice:

    First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our LORD and of Christendom.

    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.

    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.

    Fifth, I advise that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. [We might well ask “What home?”, since they were all presumably burned in point two!]

    Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them, and put aside for safe keeping.

    Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hand of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.”

    Or maybe you are Catholic


    “The Jews hold him, the Jews insult him, the Jews bind him, crown him with thorns, dishonor him with spitting, scourge him, overwhelm with revilings, hang him upon the tree, pierce him with a spear…The Jews killed him.”

    “But when the Jews killed Christ, though they knew it not, they prepared the supper for us.”

    Or maybe you are Greek Orthodox:


    “I hate the Jews because they violate the Law. I hate the synagogue because it has the Law and the prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews.”

  13. Do all those Christian quote’s make Mohammed right?

    What do Christians have to do with Muhammed’s command to kill all the Jews?

  14. P.S. I don’t know a single Christian who has anything against Jews, myself included. Besides, last time I checked…it wasn’t Jewish folks who were flying planes into buildings.

    But you liberals, in all your clucking, seem to think that America deserved to be attacked on 9/11 and that is disgusting. America is not the problem. The people who want to kill us are. When are you people going to wake up and smell the thorns?

  15. Are you serious? Can you really not get from point A to point B?

    First of all the “Kitab at-Tabaqa” is not the Koran anymore than Martin Luther is Matthew.

    Matthew of course being the most Jewish of the canonized gospels–the earliest when Jews dominated the early church. And John being the most anti-Semitic–written during the early Hellenization of the church.

    Secondly I suppose you are implying that Goode is correct in his letter because Islam is innately violent and anti-Semitic.

    Well obviously the same can be said for Christianity–Christianity has a violent and anti-Semitic past; and people still commit, and will in the future commit violent crimes in Christ’s name), so what is good for one is good for the other: as far as books to be sworn in on, that is.

  16. You are blind and deaf if you do not know any Christians who have anything against Jews. Or just dishonest, or do not have a very wide experience of the world.

    Give it up on that crap about flying planes into buildings; it is such a circular and ridiculous argument

    Are you really ignorant to the fact that there have been Christian terrorists who have killed large groups of people . . . for some reason you keep side stepping this. Hmmm, maybe you should go read about Lebanon or the civil wars in the Balkans or hmmmm, I don’t know the IRA.

    And as far as America deserved to be attacked on 9/11 . . . well wasn’t it a bunch of jackass evangelical Christian ministers that said that: you know because of abortion and gays. They said the same thing about Katrina.

    I know someone who agrees with them, Osama Bin Laden. Its called rightwing religious extremism. One particular religion does not monopolize it.

  17. Jon, One more time. No matter how hard you try to make this about Christians; it’s not. These people want to kill us you idiot. What part of that don’t you understand?

  18. Oh, please. All three of the Abrahamic religions have all sorts of nastiness in their ‘holy books’. If you’re constructing an argument attacking one of them as violent and intolerant using their scriptures as the basis for your assertions then you have to apply it to all three. Then where are you? Singling one of the three out as ‘bad’ based upon their scriptures while ignoring the other two is dishonest and stupid.

    By the way, I highly recommend Richard Dawkins’ two part documentary about the big three religions and their detrimental influence on society due to their violent and intolerant doctrines, ‘The Root of All Evil’. Both parts are available via google video:

    The Virus of Faith


    The God Delusion

  19. I love trolls, they are great practice for knocking down logical fallacies:

    Is Thomas Jefferson a Registered Voter? No. Then, I don’t think it matters that the UVA icon’s home is Monticello. I know how you Democrats love to use dead folks in elections but throwing TJ in there is a bit absurd.
    – Ben M.

    This is a classic Straw Man fallacy, in that no one had stated that Jefferson could vote, or that the ability to vote had anything to do with the logic he presented. The point is that Jefferson, being a highly respected Founding Father, can by definition determine the principles this nation was founded upon more accurately than modern folks. (Whether we want to re-examine our founding principles is a different discussion.)

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