Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn

April 11, 2011 By Rick Wingrove


Our monthly banner on the Courthouse lawn celebrates the birthday – April 13 –  of  Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Founder of the University of Virginia, and third President of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson also coined the term “Separation of Church and State” in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Separation of Church and State is shorthand for the absence in our Constitution of an official religion. Thomas Jefferson and the majority of the Founders agreed that it religion was a matter of personal choice and not a matter for the government to decide for all.

Hence, the Framers drafted a Constitution which outlines the form and function of our government in exquisite detail. The document devised the three branches of government, the division of powers, and the checks and balances between the branches.

The Framers also inserted two explicit prohibitions and two implicit limitations on religion in the Constitution. Explicitly,  Article Six prohibits a religious test for elected or appointed office under the Constitution. Explicitly,  The First Amendment prohibits the imposition by law of an official religion.

The “free exercise” places an implicit limitation on religion because everyone has free exercise; the free exercise of one person stops halfway to the next person.

But the Big Implication is that the Framers, when designing our government,  defining the domains and the powers of the branches, and the rights of the people, provided no role for any religion in our government for any religion.

That fact alone is fatal to all christianist proclamations about a “christian nation”.

You can see the banner through April 24th at the corner of King and Market Streets, on the Courthouse lawn in old downtown Leesburg, Virginia.