Jefferson Quotation

David W. New david_new at
Tue Sep 21 12:29:32 PDT 2004

In 1779, Thomas Jefferson personally wrote a Sabbath law for Virginia. See The Paper of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 2., pg. 555.published by Princeton University Press. See "A Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship and Sabbath Breakers." Madison was able to get Jefferson's Sabbath Law passed on November 26, 1786. Six months later Madison was in Philadelphia attending the constitutional convention. Apparently, Jefferson believed that religion should influence government law and policy. David W. New, Attorney at Law.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: RJLipkin at 
  To: religionlaw at 
  Cc: RJLipkin at 
  Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 2:18 PM
  Subject: Re: Jefferson Quotation

  In a message dated 9/21/2004 9:31:12 AM Eastern Standard Time, mstern at writes:
    But what could Jefferson have meant by denying he sought a government
    without religion? How would he have allowed religion to manifest itself in

          Wouldn't this depend upon what Dr. William Linn meant by "a government without religion"?  Speculating on the meaning of this locution, it seems the following possibilities exist: (1) Jefferson sought a government where law was not derived from religious morality, but rather through the use of commonly accepted ideas (including religious ones) subjected to (and revised by) the critical scruitiny or reason. (2) Jefferson was a decided atheist and wished to divest government of anything smacking of religious concepts or values. (3) Jefferson sought to exclude particular religions, or the majority religion, from influencing government decisions. (4) Jefferson sought to exclude religious people from government, and (5) Jefferson believed in a sharp distinction between religious morality and secular morality.   

          From my incomplete study of Jefferson, only (1) strikes me as potentially true. What are some other possibilities?


  Robert Justin Lipkin
  Professor of Law
  Widener University School of Law


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