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.