Thomas Jefferson on Religion

PODCAST In this Colonial Williamsburg podcast, historical interpreter Bill Barker talks about Thomas Jefferson's policy on religious freedom. He argues that it rests on one ageless axiom: do unto others. Recorded April 27, 2009

Thomas Jefferson vs. Patrick Henry

PODCAST From this page, search by recording date or by name to access "Thomas Jefferson vs Patrick Henry." The Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry continue their debate on the role of religion in Virginia's government comes alive in this Colonial Williamsburg podcast. Interpreters Bill Barker and Richard Schumann take on the roles of Jefferson and Henry. A transcript and background reading is also available. Recorded July 24, 2006

Jefferson's Religious Beliefs

WEB RESOURCE This Thomas Jefferson Monticello site provides insight into his private religious views. He was reluctant to reveal his religious beliefs to the public, but at times he would speak to and reflect upon the public dimension of religion. He was raised as an Anglican, but was influenced by English deists such as Bolingbroke and Shaftesbury. This introduction supported by primary sources offer insight into this Founder who so strongly influenced America's understanding of the relationship between government and church.

Prince Among Slaves: The Cultural Legacy of Enslaved Africans

WEB RESOURCE Find a wealth of visually rich primary sources with scholarly background information about Muslims in early America, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and identity.

Religion and the Constitution: The Triumph of Practical Politics

ONLINE ARTICLE In this reprint of an article in The Christian Century, renown theologian Martin E. Marty argues that the Framers did not refer to Christian theology in any great degree as they crafted the Constitution. Instead the freedom to believe and proselytize that the Constitution protected, led to what he calls an "evangelicalization" of America in the following generation.

Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774-89

WEB RESOURCE This Library of Congress resource uses primary materials to argue that during the late colonial period and the Continental Congress the public and government supported the promotion of non denominational Christianity.

To George Washington from the Quakers, 7 November 1792

WEB RESOURCE A letter to President Washington was composed on October 2, 1789 by a group of nineteen Quakers led by George Churchman and approved the next day during the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Washington's response to the Quakers became key to understanding the ideas of religious liberty as understood by the Founders.

The Surprising Story of Thomas Jefferson's Koran

WEB RESOURCE This six-minute National Public Radio interview features Denise Spellberg, author of Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders. The site also include a transcript and hotlinks to excerpts from Jefferson's Qur'an.

"A Religious Flame That Spread All Over Kentucky"- Peter Cartwright Brings Evangelical Christianity to the West, 1801-04

PRIMARY SOURCE In the decades after the Revolution, a set of choices appeared on the American religious landscape as an anti-authoritarian climate encouraged the formation of new democratically organized religious sects of the Second Great Awakening. The Baptists and Methodists were most adept in preaching to the new populist audience during these years of camp meeting revivalism. Peter Cartwright greatly contributed to the Methodists' success at introducing evangelical Protestantism to the new settlements of the West. Cartwright served as an itinerant minister bringing his version of enthusiastic religion to Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio. This account of his conversion in the camp meeting of 1801 and his later career as a circuit rider comes from his autobiography, which was published in 1856.

Red Jacket Defends Native American Religion, 1805 by Red Jacket

PRIMARY SOURCE The Senecas, members of the Iroquois Confederacy, fought on the side of the British in the American Revolution. Red Jacket, also known as Sagoyewatha, was a chief and orator born in eastern New York; he derived his English name from his habit of wearing many red coats provided to him by his British allies. After the Revolution the Senecas and many other Indian peoples faced enormous pressure on their homelands. Red Jacket was a critical mediator in relations between the new U.S. government and the Senecas; he led a delegation that met with George Washington in 1792, when he received a peace medal that appeared in subsequent portraits of the Indian leader. In 1805 a Boston missionary society requested Red Jacket's permission to proselytize among the Iroquois settlements in northern New York State. Red Jacket's forceful defense of native religion caused the representative to refuse the Indian's handshake and announce that no fellowship could exist between the religion of God and the works of the Devil.

"The Meeting Continued All Night, Both by the White & Black People"- Georgia Camp Meeting, 1807

PRIMARY SOURCE Camp meetings such as this one, held near Sparta, Georgia, in 1807, were a manifestation of the nationwide Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. The Second Great Awakening was an evangelical religious revival conducted by Baptists, Methodists, and other dissenting Protestant sects. Evangelical religion was often described as "enthusiastic," and people attending expressed their feelings through spontaneous movements and speech. Like the first Great Awakening of the 18th century, the Second Great Awakening was notably egalitarian, with men, women, blacks, and poor whites mingling together in worship.

The Radical Whig Synthesis

WEB RESOURCE Christianity did inform the attitudes of the Founders but European political ideas shaped their thinking as well. American political philosophers, such as Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, had, of course, read Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and others. The general population was also influenced by both factors because throughout the build up to the Revolution pamphlets and debates brought these ideas to everyone.

10 Facts about Religion and Government in the United States

SURVEY Pew Research Center surveys in recent years have shown that far more Americans support than oppose the separation of church and state, although there sometimes are divisions on these questions by political identity and religious affiliation. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that the country shall have no official religion, and Americans have been debating where to draw the line between religion and government since the country’s founding. The debate recently resurfaced with three new Supreme Court rulings over religious symbols on public property, prayer in public schools and state subsidies for religious schools. Here are 10 questions and responses by Americans in relation to the relationship between religion and government.

Thomas Jefferson vs. Patrick Henry

PODCAST For this Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Bill Barker performed as Thomas Jefferson and Richard Schumann as Patrick Henry continue a debate on the proper role of religion in government. Note the major differences among the beliefs of these early American leaders.

From George Washington to the Society of Quakers, 13 October 1789

PRIMARY SOURCE This letter is George Washington's response to the Quaker congregation that had sent him a letter a few weeks before. He describes the freedom of worship that are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty

WEB RESOURCE This is a document from the US Attorney General about the relationship of religion and government. "To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting, and programming. The following twenty principles should guide administrative agencies and executive departments in carrying out this task. These principles should be understood and interpreted in light of the legal analysis set forth in the appendix to this memorandum."