We didn't need more evidence that religious fundamentalists are dangerous wackos who seek to undermine American freedom and independence -- but, sadly, here it is:
Jefferson, on the other hand, held unconventional Christian beliefs and strongly argued for the separation of church and state. He also, of course, was the third president of the United States, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States.
But in Texas he doesn't exist. Not according to the conservative-dominated state school board. A live blog report shows it only took twenty-one minutes to erase Jefferson.
9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.
9:40 – We’re just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board’s far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America’s exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America’s Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.
9:45 – Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.
9:51 – Dunbar’s amendment striking Jefferson passed with the votes of the board’s far-right members and board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas.
Is this un-American, unpatriotic, and incredibly stupid? Yes.
Republicans on the Texas State Board of Education also don't want school children to know about the prohibition of a government-sponsored religion in the Bill of Rights, since they clearly are out to make their brand of fundamentalist Christianity into just that.
To hell with the Constitution. To hell with Thomas Jefferson. To hell with academic standards. (Amazingly, the board revised the curriculum without any input from scholars, classroom teachers, or experts in the social sciences.)
On the plus side, this outrage against history probably is leading many people to dig into why Thomas Jefferson is so threatening to religious true believers. I'm one of them.
This morning I found my copy of "The Godless Constitution" and turned to the chapter, The "Infidel" Mr. Jefferson. I learned that in the 1800 presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams:
The floodgates of Christian anger opened upon Jefferson in a concerted effort to paint him as a "French infidel" and a "howling atheist." The Reverend William Linn, a Dutch Reformed minister in New York, wrote a pamphlet opposing Jefferson because of "his disbelief of the Holy Scriptures; or in other words his rejection of the Christian Religion and open profession of Deism."
Jefferson had plenty of company among our nation's Founding Fathers (sorry for the sexist language, but this is what the founders almost always are called; I guess there weren't any Founding Mothers).
This is a first for me -- quoting from an Ayn Rand web site -- but it speaks the truth.
As the quotes on this page illustrate, the claim that America was founded on Christianity is a myth. Many of the Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War leaders were Deists, and upheld a firm separation of church and state.
Here's some additional quotes from "The Godless Constitution" that point to Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment values. He'd never be able to be elected to high office today, even though Jefferson is considered one of our greatest presidents.
Jefferson had suggested (as we noted in the last chapter) that it was not of interest to the state whether his neighbor believed in twenty gods or no God, since "it neither breaks my leg, nor picks my pocket."
The second offensive passage appears in Jefferson's argument that only reason, persuasion, and free inquiry, not governmental coercion, find and advance truth.
It was this strident Enlightenment rationalism, his constant juxtaposition of reason and superstition, free inquiry and religious coercion, that made Jefferson seem so dangerous a threat to his Christian enemies.
[To Jefferson] Priests were the subverters of reason and enlightenment, for centuries duping decent Christians into "burning and torturing one another for abstractions which no one of them understand." They weave "spells" for their flocks, "moulding their minds as wax in the hollows of their hands." All priests, Jefferson claimed, "dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight."
Outspokenly anticlerical and vigilant to exclude religion from public life as he may have been, Jefferson was, it must be emphasized, not himself a godless man. He was in fact living proof of his own argument that religion as private conviction could flourish without public endorsement.
He believed fervently in the one God who had created all men equal. While never formally abandoning the Episcopalianism of his Virginia youth, he usually identified himself as a Unitarian. In this respect he was deeply influenced by the writings of his scientific friend the Reverend Joseph Priestley.
They both rejected the Trinity as a "metaphysical insanity" and shared the general deistic rejection of the miracles of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and the doctrines of original sin and blood atonement. Jefferson, in fact, predicted that one day in a rational America everyone would be a Unitarian.
Far from being one of "the bitterest enemies of Christ," as the Reverend Mason claimed in 1800, Jefferson embraced a personal religion shaped by the life and teachings of Jesus. He called his own creed "the philosophy of Jesus" and referred often to "the purity and sublimity of his moral precepts."
Thomas Jefferson said, ""I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know." He made up his own Bible, leaving out the unbelievable stuff. (You can read it here.) For his churchlessness alone, not to mention his other accomplishments, Jefferson deserves better than being disrespected by the Texas State Board of Education.
I shall honor his contributions to the United States and the world by vowing to never set foot in Texas (unless absolutely necessary) or watch a Dallas Cowboys football game (only the cheerleaders).