Tag Archives: Doctor Benjamin Rush

You shouldn’t talk about religion publicly – 2 of 5


 

THOMAS JEFFERSON LEADERSHIP

 

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case, by change if circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God and himself.

 

Source: To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson

P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation

In Part 1, Jefferson explained why he kept his religious views private. Here, he encouraged everyone who valued their right to think for themselves to support that same privacy for others. Why? Because the Constitution prohibited government support of or opposition to an individual’s religious preferences, leaving those choices “between God and himself.”

 

Since the law protected “the common right of independent opinion,” he urged others not to betray that protection. The erosion of that right for one person could become the starting point for erosion of that right for others. Making private views public by “answering questions of faith” could pry open a door that the Constitution said should remain locked.

 

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:

1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicy

2. You shouldn’t talk about religion publicly

3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly

4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly

5. What made Jesus different

 

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Why I don’t talk about religion, 1 of 5 THOMAS JEFFERSON LEADERSHIP


 

I am moreover averse to the communications of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenance [“approve or encourage,” Webster’s 7th New Collegiate] the presumption [“audacity,” ditto] of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed [prohibited].

 

Source: To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson

P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation

Leaders should keep personal views private.

Jefferson’s language can be hard to follow. Here’s a summary:

1. He does not make his religious views public.

2. Doing so encourages people with bad motives.

– They would make his private views a matter of public debate.

– That debate could lead to an investigation of his beliefs.

– His beliefs, “the rights of conscience,” are no one’s business but his.

3. The Constitution’s 1st Amendment rightly prohibits such meddling in an individual’s personal choices about religion.

 

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:

1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicy

2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly

3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly

4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly

5. What made Jesus different

 

The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.

 

His business address is ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com.

 

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