Opinion

Jefferson’s vision of American Islam

President Donald Trump speaks at an iftar dinner, which breaks a daylong fast, celebrating Islam's holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room of the White House Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(The Conversation) — After last year’s deliberate break with tradition, President Donald Trump has resumed the iftar dinner – the sundown meal during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. An estimated 3.3 million American Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

The month of Ramadan marks the time when Prophet Muhammad is believed to have first received revelations from God and has been celebrated at the White House since 1996. It was Hillary Clinton who started the tradition as first lady. However, last year, the Trump White House did not host the traditional reception. Neither did the State Department under Secretary Rex Tillerson, even though the holiday has been commemorated there since 1999.

Despite the relatively recent nature of these formal celebrations, the fact is that Islam’s presence in North America dates to the founding of the nation, and even earlier, as my book, “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders,” demonstrates.

Islam, an American religion

Muslims arrived in North America as early as the 17th century, eventually composing 15 to 30 percent of the enslaved West African population of British America. Muslims from the Middle East did not begin to immigrate to the United States as free citizens until the late 19th century. Key American Founding Fathers demonstrated a marked interest in the faith and its practitioners, most notably Thomas Jefferson.

As a 22-year-old law student in Williamsburg, Virginia, Jefferson bought a Qur’an – 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence.

The purchase is symbolic of a longer historical connection between American and Islamic worlds, and a more inclusive view of the nation’s early, robust view of religious pluralism.

Although Jefferson did not leave any notes on his immediate reaction to the Qur’an, he did criticize Islam as “stifling free enquiry” in his early political debates in Virginia, a charge he also leveled against Catholicism. He thought both religions fused religion and the state at a time he wished to separate them in his commonwealth.

Despite his criticism of Islam, Jefferson supported the rights of its adherents. Evidence exists that Jefferson had been thinking privately about Muslim inclusion in his new country since 1776. A few months after penning the Declaration of Independence, he returned to Virginia to draft legislation about religion for his native state, writing in his private notes a paraphrase of the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:

“(He) says neither Pagan nor Mahometan (Muslim) nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

The precedents Jefferson copied from Locke echo strongly in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which proclaims:

“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”

The statute, drafted in 1777, became law in 1786 and inspired the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause and the First Amendment.

Jefferson’s pluralistic vision

Was Jefferson thinking about Muslims when he drafted his famed Virginia legislation?

Indeed, we find evidence for this in the Founding Father’s 1821 autobiography, where he recorded that a final attempt to add the words “Jesus Christ” to the preamble of his legislation failed. And this failure led Jefferson to affirm that he had intended the application of the Statute to be “universal.”

By this he meant that religious liberty and political equality would not be exclusively Christian. Jefferson asserted in his autobiography that his original legislative intent had been “to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

By defining Muslims as future citizens in the 18th century, in conjunction with a resident Jewish minority, Jefferson expanded his “universal” legislative scope to include every one of every faith.

Ideas about the nation’s religiously plural character were tested also in Jefferson’s presidential foreign policy with the Islamic powers of North Africa. President Jefferson welcomed the first Muslim ambassador, who hailed from Tunis, to the White House in 1805. Because it was Ramadan, the president moved the state dinner from 3:30 p.m. to be “precisely at sunset,” a recognition of the Tunisian ambassador’s religious beliefs, if not quite America’s first official celebration of Ramadan.

A White House tradition

Muslims once again provide a litmus test for the civil rights of all U.S. believers. Even though this administration resumes the traditional White House Ramadan celebration in 2018, many prominent American Muslims have publicly stated that, even if invited, they would not attend. Many American Muslim have not forgotten Trump’s many wrong assertions against them. Currently, the legality of this administration’s Muslim ban is pending before the Supreme Court.

Regardless of the stated anti-Islamic political views of this president, Ramadan still provides a moment to remember that Islam has long been practiced in America.

Its adherents remain a pivotal part of its founding history. The presence of Muslims in America, as American citizens, has now been acknowledged by the Trump administration, in this year’s markedly more inclusive 2018 statement about Ramadan. The statement reads in part:

“Ramadan reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life. In the United States, we are all blessed to live under a Constitution that fosters religious liberty and respects religious practice.”

Today, Muslims are fellow citizens, and their legal rights represent an American founding ideal still besieged by fear mongering, a practice at odds with the best of our ideals of universal religious freedoms. Despite demonstrating more public hostility toward Islam than any previous administration, the White House celebration of Ramadan this year underscores a more important, implicit historical reality: Muslims have practiced their faith here for centuries and will continue to do so.

The Conversation(This is an updated version of a piece first published on May 31, 2017. Denise A. Spellberg, is professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the  University of Texas at Austin. This article was originally published on The Conversation

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121 Comments

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  • It’s a really sad commentary on the state of our nation that today, we would still be debating whether or not Muslims ought to have equal rights and enjoy the constitutional protections.

  • Thomas Jefferson did not own a Qur’an. Only the text in Arabic is a Qur’an.

    Jefferson owned a 1734 George Sale translation of the Qur’an.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7440

    It might be helpful for Denise A. Spellberg to provide an example or two of “the stated anti-Islamic political views of this president”.

    I cannot think of a single one.

  • “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” Thomas Jefferson

    Must keep his views on Islam in context.

  • The only way to have freedom OF religion in any place is for the citizens as a whole to have ensured freedom FROM the majority religion in that place. Islam that can’t do that in Saudi Arabia and Iran (for instance) basically “ain’t no good”. Christianity that can’t do it in America “ain’t no good” either. (You do know your separation of church and state is now slipping away, right? And that the supporters of your current president do not believe in it, right?)

  • it’s always funny how apologists strive by resorting to diplomatic letters as ‘personal opinions’. Also funny how this author came to the ridiculous conclusion that Islam is an American religion, just because we have freedom OF religion here. If anything, Jefferson’s words show SUPERIORITY to Islam and muslims, since their Allah is not even remotely as gracious as our Constitution.

  • that’s not true. The left keeps coming up with this bizarro ‘Christian Theocracy’, while completely ignoring or diminishing the threat of REAL potential theocracies by playing the relativism card

  • Since “separation of church and state” was never in the Constitution, it can hardly slip away.

  • Smart man, that Jefferson. He recognized the stifling danger that religious fanaticism presented to freedom, and he wanted no part of it present in the government of a free society.

  • It’s also telling that Jefferson considered Catholicism equally threatening to liberty as Islam. Neither one should govern our country, of course. The Constitution is a far better governor than the Koran or the Bible.

  • “Christian Theocracy” is not a term I use or brought up. Would you explain what other “REAL potential theocracies” you are concerned about?

  • Any of all of the precedent Court interpretations of the First Amendment can “slip away” with future interpretations which reverse them on narrow grounds.

  • could you explain exactly who “these people” that jefferson referred to are ? since moslems are not a race, it would not be referencing them . who did jefferson mean ?

  • the only “American religion” would be the religions of the american people who met the pilgrims and other european immigrints to these shores . christianity, judaism and islam were all late additions here .

  • The FDIC insurance on your bank account is not in the Constitution, but it could slip away at any time. Ditto hundreds of other norms we all live by, developed over time—–all “under” the Constitution but not “in” the Constitution. Gotta mow my lawn today. Short on time for “too silly for words” debates. Wish you were too.

  • The topic is the First Amendment, not “separation of church and state”, which does not appear in the Constitution.

    Nor is the topic the FDIC, which results from legislation.

    These are not “‘too silly for words’ debates”.

    These are the warp and woof of he Constitution and laws we live under.

    If you intend to post on them, you should take them seriously and be prepared for a discussion.

  • The Constitution is written, once. It is amended 27 times.

    “Separation of church and state” is an ahistorical interpretation by people with an axe to grind.

  • You are doing a good job of explaining to other readers why their (THEIR) separation of church and state is vulnerable to slipping away.

  • I am arguing circles around you now (although there is nothing about you which puts any such obligation on me.)

  • At least understand that is NOT in the Constitution, which actually prohibits the establishment of a religion (e.g., the Church of England).

  • You mean the time he wanted to ban all Muslims from the country?
    Edit: And what is your basis for saying only the text in Arabic can be called a Quran?

  • He means blacks and whites, and is using Jefferson to support his own pro-segregation views.

  • Citation on your first sentence, please.

    Muslims believe that the Qur’an was verbally revealed by Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of approximately 23 years in classical Arabic.

    According to this narrative, companions of Muhammad served as scribes and were responsible for writing down the revelations, which were compiled by his companions who wrote down and memorized parts of it.

    Because it is literally the word of the deity verbatim, no translation is considered a Qur’an and no translation can be used to settle any disputation or question of interpretation.

    The “Inimitability” of the Qur’an (or “I’jaz”) is the belief that no human speech can match the Qur’an in its content and form, period. It is literally a miracle, a divine product.

    As a result the Qur’an is treated with reverence. Based on Qur’an 56:79 (“none shall touch but those who are clean”), Muslims believe that they must perform a ritual cleansing with water before touching a copy of the Qur’an (this view is not universal). Worn-out copies of the Qur’an are wrapped in a cloth and stored indefinitely in a safe place, buried in a mosque or a Muslim cemetery, or burned and the ashes buried or scattered over water.

  • “Trump calls for ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’,” Washington Post 12.7.15. True, this would not have directly affected those Muslims already in the US.
    Judaism treats worn-out copies of its holy books in much the same way.

  • This is what you are referencing:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/12/07/donald-trump-calls-for-total-and-complete-shutdown-of-muslims-entering-the-united-states/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.996b848aaa5b

    and here is what he meant:

    http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/article/2017/feb/03/donald-trumps-executive-order-muslim-ban/

    Yes, he called for a complete freeze on the entrance of individuals from a list of countries which were predominantly Muslim.

    And, yes, he is a sloppy speaker who lacks precision in his statements, although he doesn’t hold a candle to Maxine Waters.

  • His sloppy speech doesn’t give him an excuse for his the anti-Islamic nature of his statements.

  • You can call it whatever you want, but you want to be free to not associate with blacks, correct?

  • Sloppy speech seemed to have given his opponent plenty of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

    I see it differently then you do, but I spent years in Washington, DC, watching the sausage getting made.

  • Get rid of all entitlements. Allow men and women to associate; do business with; sell their homes etc., etc…………………..to anyone they please. The Country was allegedly founded on ‘Freedom’. Let’s get back to having “Freedom”.

  • As I mentioned earlier, these are not “‘too silly for words’ debates”.

    Nor did I ask you to talk to me.

    You posted at

    https://disqus.com/home/forum/religionnews/

    whose posting policy can be found at:

    https://religionnews.com/commenting-policy/

    “RNS’s comments section is meant to be a place of lively yet respectful and edifying discussion of our stories and the issues they raise.”

    The very moment you post, your comment is open to response.

    You’ve been told that by Disqus, by RNS, and by yours truly at least three times: please cease whining.

  • So far, I am polite enough to respond to you when you address me. If you are not addressing me, you would be writing original posts not tied onto mine. When you send me a “reply”, you are inviting (asking for) the “lively and edifying discussion”. “Respectful” is relative, of course. If you were being “respectful”, you would peddle your own peanuts—-independent of me—— instead of persisting as a personal stalker.

  • Yeah, Islamism. They have a penchant for making a pedophile’s manifesto their own naton’s constitutions.

  • ah, the ol noble savage schtick. Gotta love those Mayan human sacrifices to Quatzecoatl and using the heads of their enemies as basketballs. I love how people don’t have any clue as to what a nation or society is and have this bizarre idea that all the indians were all living together in peace and harmony and not all fighting each other and enslaving each other.

  • >”You do know your separation of church and state is now slipping away, right? And that the supporters of your current president do not believe in it, right?”

    >”Christian Theocracy” is not a term I use or brought up

    -_-”

  • I hesitate to give you a wake-up call, but here it is:

    1 – If you post a comment which bears criticism, exegesis, expansion, or otherwise, the response to it will be addressed to you. That is how Disqus works – get used to it.

    2 – Your continued use of “stalker” and “stalking” to someone using Disqus as it is designed is inappropriate and I will be bringing it to Disqus’ attention if it continues.

    3 – If you do not wish to read my comments, you are not compelled to. Your responses to this point are not polite, so if you don’t respond, my feelings will be uninjured.

    4 – If you simply can’t control yourself well enough to not read comments, there is a simple solution available to you:

    https://help.disqus.com/commenting/user-blocking

    and you should use it.

    Please get a grip on yourself at your very earliest convenience.

  • Trump lauds religious liberty, but at the same time he has made it very clear that he opposes the rights of conscience and religious liberty of women regarding reproductive issues, and he wants government to divert public funds to church-run private schools through vouchers or tax credits, which would violate every taxpayer’s fundamental right not to be forced to support religious institutions. Trump either has no idea what he is talking about or he is deliberately lying. Either way, Donnie dishonors his position as president. — Edd Doerr

  • Jefferson stated that the First Amendment implies church-separation. And the Suoreme Court so ruled in 1879 and in 1947.

  • The First Amendment was not aimed at the C of E but at all forms of establishment of religion.. Read history, Bob.

  • Bob, trolling for Trump, is thumbing his nose at Jefferson, Madison and the majority in Congress who voted for the First Amendment.

  • The topic is the First Amendment, not “separation of church and state”, nor Trump.

    I understand you have a peculiar view of the First Amendment.

    Neither I nor the courts share it.

  • The First Amendment did NOT provide for “separation of church and state” but specifically for no establishment of religion.

    Read the amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It does not contain the word “church” nor the word “state” nor the word “separation”.

    It DOES contain “an establishment”.

  • Yes, long after the amendment passed Jefferson provided his personal opinion in a letter.

    I also have a personal opinion, as do you, and none of the three opinions rise to the level of amending the Constitution.

    The Supreme Court has NEVER stated that the First Amendment provides for “separation of church and state”.

    In its dicta the SCOTUS has mentioned Jefferson’s phrase in the way of analogy.

  • Jefferson’s letter of 1802 was cleared through his Attorney General. And you misinterpret what the SCOTUS has held.

  • His Attorney General lacked the power to amend the Constitution, as do you, and as did he.

    Quote the exact words of the SCOTUS in context – I have read them already.

  • Jefferson said that is what the First A means and SCOTUS2es have agreed with him until packed by GOP presidents.

  • Jefferson and every President before and after him could say what the First Amendment means without impacting what it means.

    Notably it does NOT contain the word “church” nor the word “state” nor the word “separation”.

    If you get around to it, exact in context quotations from the SCOTUS might help you, but short of that we are done.

  • To my knowledge, Lent has never been observed at the White House. So why should Ramadan be?

  • Good.

    Scratch “church”, “state”, and “separation” which don’t appear together in it or any of its amendments.

    “Establishment” does, but you never like to talk about it.

  • I’m no fan of Islamism, but, of course, it cannot be imposed in any country (such as ours) which actually has separation of church and state. Same with Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Evangelicalism or any other. That’s the beauty of “no church in state”. You are never controlled by any of them.

  • Thanks for “trying” with Bob. This is not my first round with him here, always initiated by him to provoke an argument. Good luck. He is a piece of work and represents the reason I ditched church decades ago.
    Who wants to “fellowship” with nuts like this?

  • Disqus does invite us to use its blocking feature to deal with “trolls, spammers and other unwanted content”. I am aware of how it works more or less as a restraining order to keep stalkers out of our faces.

  • ah, the old shtick of not reading what a person writes and going off on your own issues . i do not believe in noble savages, nor noble civilized people . i believe in great good and great evil among every people in most any time and place .

    i know you don’t mean that enslaving folks is ok as long as you do it to different sorts of folks . but your last sentence sure makes it sound like you do .

  • bob if you have something to say, do it . stop giving bibliographies . that only shows that you know how to link , not think .

  • if you gleaned that from my last paragraph, then you totally are off the mark. And hey, how those Islamists who enslaved the Greeks for *400+ years*

  • The articles fully described them – torture, cannibalism, barbarity, the results of native American religion.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an American religion.

  • the only point i was making in this thread, originally, was that there was religion on this continent before we europeans came . that was to suggest that because christianity was the first brought in from the outside that therefore islam could not also become and american religion . it can and it has .

    the fact that some american indians as some europeans become violent and evil to others is not news . it is also not the whole story . and it is not simply “the results of native American religion,” anymore than world war i and world war ii and the terrorist activity of my irish cousins in the 40s through the 80s were ‘the results of europe’s native christianity’ .

  • as i suggested i doubt that you meant the implication, but when you wrote of the evils of the american peoples who met the european folks, the charge against the indians immediately conjures up the coming history of some groups being totally wiped out . others decimated , their traditional land taken because some guy had a writ from the english or spanish king saying the land was now his . and of course the many wars capped by the brutal civil war where we fought each other about the enslaving of africans here for some 2 to 300 years .

    as you note the evil of some of those indians, be humble to note the evil that our peoples also did .

  • geez Roy . you are forced to associate ? what you have to go to parties you don’t want to ? attend rallies ? go to a church you don’t like ?

    how do you not have freedom of association ?

  • >”as you note the evil of some of those indians, be humble to note the evil that *SOME* of our peoples also did .”

    Fixed it for ya. And by the way, it was the Islamists and the Dutch that were enslaving the Africans. Neither of which are my ancestors. So don’t say “our”.

  • The fact that your cousins were not cannibals probably had something to do with the fact they were Christians, not native American animists.

    The Mormons are a native American religion.

  • cannibalism is a sensational after fact . the real question is were my cousins or your cousins murderers . europeans were not a peaceable lot regardless of the teachings of jesus of nazareth .

    the mormons were not here to greet the pilgrims . many religions have been created by europeans in america once they got settled in . that was not my point . that is yours made for i know not what reason .

  • the dutch and the “islamists” would not have been building a major industry of slavery if there was not a major market to sell to .

    your family nor mine had no direct connection to the slave trade, yet the prosperity of the u.s. was built on the ownership of humans; the “civil” war was largely caused by the demands of the slave owners to have more states or new territories accept slavery as a legal principle so that the value of their slaves would increase .

  • “Separation of church and state” was an interpretation by thomas jefferson . what axe did he have to grind ?

  • yes, my tongue was in cheek . but the point is real . how is your freedom of association abridged by anything here under discussion ? and no i don’t enjoy having to point out the obvious .

  • You haven’t a clue; and you don’t want to have a clue. You love exactly the treatment Whites are getting in their own Country.

  • Except, there wasn’t a major market, not in the US. Full fledge slavery lasted less than 100 years here. I know you’ve probably watched ROOTS too much. Also, 35 thousand Africans did not build America. You likely also confuse slavery with indentured servitude and sharecropping. Hate to break it to you, but it was the industrial revolution that made America a powerhouse, not some cotton-pickers in a state or two.

  • and my ancestry is CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Bohemia to be exact. So tell me again how I am in your “our”?

  • “…treatment Whites are getting….”

    the clue you should get is that even when obama was president, whites were running this country . there has not been a time in our history that whites have not run this country .

    your freedom of association is doing just fine . unless you are blogging from jail .

  • if you have something to say, Roy, say it . i don’t run after links unless i have idea that there is value there . there’s only so many hours in a day .

  • And the only real solution? The Great Kibosh:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • And additional details for “kiboshing” Islam for those interested:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “creationist”.

    “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hittites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”. Modern devils are classified as the demons of the demented.

    “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invalidated by the natural gifts of Free Will and Future.

    “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone.”

    Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the “two-minute” cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for “kiboshing” Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

  • If you know how to post a picture/photo, please enlighten me. I see some people do it. I just don’t know how to.

  • Again…………….you don’t get it; you don’t want to get it. Why? Probably because you are not a straight White man.

  • I personally could not care less how Jefferson interpreted the First Amendment.

    The question was what the First Amendment states, and “separation”, “church” and “state” are all missing from it.

    It does contain “establishment of religion”, which Mr. Doerr goes to great lengths not to mention or discuss. The reasons why he avoids that in his 88th year has to do with:

    http://www.arlinc.org/about/officers.html

    http://huumanists.org/users/edd-doerr

    https://www.uua.org/offices/people/edd-doerr

  • no “…35 thousand Africans did not build America….” some 388,000 africans directly delivered on slave ships did . a population that increased from 1808, when importation of enslaved people was banned, to 3,900,000 in 1860 when the civil was was just about to start .

    you are right that the industrial revolution made america a powerhouse, but the money that was made on slavery, filtered through wall street was the resource that allowed industry to form as a major force .

    “…not some cotton-pickers in a state or two.” out of every $10 made on exports in 1850 some 6.10 was from cotton being shipped out . so you’re right : “not some cotton-pickers”, many, many cotton pickers, not “in a state or two”, but in georgia, alabama, mississippi as the main crop; and in south carolina, louisiana , arkansas and texas as a major crop; and in neighboring states on a smaller basis .

  • and my ancestry is IRELAND . limerick to be exact . [limericks are furtive and mean . must be kept in strict quarantine . else he sneaks to the slums . and promptly becomes . drunk,disorderly, and obscene .]

    you know how around memorial day we are remained that one should thank those who fought and those who died for our country . they gave and preserved our freedom .

    that is true for everything we have as americans whether we were here for the fighting or for the building . we came in and were able to have freedom and the chance for prosperity by those who came before us .

    we have a debt to them simply by being citizens . we citizens are the “our” .

  • as true with one who jumps from plane without a parachute, it is generally a bad idea to jump to a conclusion .

  • “Yes, long after the amendment passed….”

    jefferson’s letter was january 1, 1802 . that would have been 11 years after the bill of rights were ratified . that was no where as “long after” as we are speculating on how to interpret it . he likely had a better idea of what the words meant to the people who wrote than we do .

  • Jefferson’s opinion had then, and has now, no more authority than your opinion.

    In order of authority:

    – the plain words of the amendment

    – the interpretation(s) of the Supreme Court in applying it

    – the intepretation(s) of district courts in applying it

  • Bob, you want freedom of religion for those who agree with you only. The separation of church and state is implied by the first amendment. I assume that you are a literalist and assume that if it’s not literally written in the constitution it should be ignored.

  • No.

    I want the First Amendment to mean what it says, nothing more, nothing less.

    A “separation of church and state is (NOT) implied by the first amendment”.

    The authors of the Constitution spoke English, excellent English in fact, and were that what they meant, that is what they would have written.

    The words “separation”, “church”, and “state” do not even appear in the First Amendment.

    Here is the text:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • No, BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca. What you clearly really want is for the First Amendment and every other document related to rules and laws to reflect the homophobic, gun multiplying, racist, and generally bigoted views of your NRA backers.

  • We won’t if NRA shills like you get their way. But they won’t, BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca. Your lot are in decline and are really just a set of dying out old relics of a bigoted, racist past.

    We’ve caught you in your nasty tricks, you disgusting old fundebangelist bigot.

  • Oh, the irony from sloppy old BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca there, but then he’s just a dead player anyway, and is rather prone to mistakes.

  • Oh, the irony as usual from BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca, our local rabid purveyor of non-facts.

  • Oh, the irony yet again from BobbyJo Arnzen Carioca, our local personal attacker and harasser.

  • The world is leaving you behind fast.

    I don’t disagree with you. However……….that should concern you. “Many” seek to enter but fail. Not only is ‘time’ running short; your life span is also running short.
    Good luck with the next life. You’ll need it.

  • as the supreme court, and the district courts, quote from jefferson in their discussions of the meaning of the first amendment, i would suggest that jefferson’s opinion has a great deal more authority than mine or yours .

  • You may suggest anything you like.

    Provide your best example of the Supreme Court quoting Jefferson and let’s examine with it said.

    I suggested Edd Doerr do that. Silence.

  • “R.A.” writes, “I also have a personal opinion…”

    In other words, our friend’s “personal opinion” is on par with that of Jefferson :o)

    Go figure.

  • ““Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” If this phraseology does not indicate church-state separation, I don’t know what does. Like you, I think Jefferson had it right.

  • “… please cease whining.”

    Says “R.J.” who picked up his marbles, took them home, and retired to his bedroom to pout.

  • “Provide your best example of the Supreme Court quoting Jefferson….”

    as you might guess it is :

    EVERSON v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EWING TP., (1947)

    from justice black’s opinion :

    The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertain- [330 U.S. 1, 16] ing or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’ Reynolds v. United States, supra, 98 U.S. at page 164. [third from last paragraph]

    The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach. [last paragraph]

  • Boy, have I been waiting for that.

    For neophytes:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everson_v._Board_of_Education

    and for others:

    https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/330/1/case.html

    The case was brought by a New Jersey taxpayer (Everson) against a school district that reimbursed parents of both public and private school students taking public transportation to school. Everson contended that reimbursement for children attending private religious schools violated the constitutional prohibition against state support of religion, and using taxpayer funds to do so violated the Due Process Clause.

    The Court, in its decision, noted that “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa”. This, of course, is the plain meaning of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”.

    After discussing all the sorts of aid that a state might make available to all students, public and private, secular and religious, it pointed out that :

    “Of course, cutting off church schools from these services so separate and so indisputably marked off from the religious function would make it far more difficult for the schools to operate. But such is obviously not the purpose of the First Amendment. That Amendment requires the state to be a neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and nonbelievers; it does not require the state to be their adversary. State power is no more to be used so as to handicap religions than it is to favor them.”

    In other words, providing this aid does not establish a religion.

    In further explanation, the Court offered this:

    “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State.’ Reynolds v. United States, supra, at 98 U. S. 164.”

    Notice that the “wall of separation between church and State” is “obiter dictum” – Latin for “something said in passing”, a comment made while delivering a judicial opinion, but unnecessary to the decision in the case and therefore not precedential (although it may be considered persuasive).

    The Court has already used the ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment to decide the case in favor of reimbursing students in religious schools.

    Its short but concise description of what the Amendment means flies directly in the face of what such organizations as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the ACLU claim it says, and all three interpret it to mean “wall of separation between church and State” in the very sense rejected by the Court: requiring the state to be an adversary in its relations with groups of religious believers and nonbelievers.

    In short, the Court did NOT say that the First Amendment = “separation of church and state” and did NOT adopt the radical position of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, ACLU, and like organizations.

  • “In short, the Court did NOT say….”

    the court in everson precisely did say the first amendment was the separation of church and state . please, you who believe that the text can only mean what the words say, read again the text . it is the text that i quote above . and that you then re-quoted [?] in full . that is what the text said and meant : “In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State’ ” .

    “…and did NOT adopt the radical position….”

    that is not responsive to what i am saying . you said that the court did not use what jefferson said in any significant way . they most certainly did . you then attempt to say that it was only a phrase said in passing ??? the opinion uses it as a simple and historic way of summarizing the whole essential paragraph in which justice black notes how religion and government must stay apart .

    black doubles down on that idea when he, in his penultimate sentences, wrote “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

    that is not anyone’s “obiter dictum” .

    but . but . but i image you saying . as above you note “The Court has already used the ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment to decide the case in favor of reimbursing students in religious schools.”

    yes it has . but all of the cases decided since everson have been a judicial back and forth on the question of what can the government do, and must not do, when religion is involved .

    in everson the opinion concluded :

    “The State contributes no money to the schools. It does not support them. Its legislation, as applied, does no more than provide a general program to help parents get their children, regardless of their religion, safely and expeditiously to and from accredited schools.”

    the separation of church and state stands . currently we are trying to work out the details .

  • The decision was in no way contingent on a supposed “wall of separation between church and State”.

    The decision was made on the very plain text of the First Amendment.

    Nor does it rest on “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

    It rests on the fact that the state of New Jersey did not establish a religion.

    That the reference to the supposed “wall of separation between church and State” is “obiter dictum” is demonstrated by the fact that every reference to it can be removed from the decision without impairing the Court’s logic, which is entirely based on the text of the Amendment.

    It is unfortunate that this decision included these references since it fueled the zany anti-Catholics who founded the Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is now Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and continues to fuel folks like yourself.

    A “wall of separation between church and State” is not the same thing as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, and using it as analogy simply clouds the issues.

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