Did Jefferson Hate the Clergy?

Contrary to the modern understanding of Thomas Jefferson, our third president enjoyed many positive relations with various clergymen and active laypeople, the majority of whom were believers in historic Christianity. However, he was the recipient of a vicious attack by northern clergymen during the 1800 election—primarily because of a misinterpretation of his Bill to disestablish the state church of Virginia.


In our book, we present five chronological stages in Jefferson’s religious life, including in reference to his relationship with the church. For 65 years as an adult there is hard evidence of Thomas Jefferson being involved in church for at least 75 percent of the time, and indirect evidence and eye-witness testimony of his attendance in other years. Even in years lacking hard proof of attendance, there is still plenty of evidence of prayer and Bible study, etc., plus he says in various times that he worshiped somewhere (i.e., in Philadelphia at Priestley’s Unitarian church) when contemporary records are not found for it.

Plus if he had not attended church in some periods, such as when he was Governor (1779-1781) in Williamsburg (at Bruton Parish Church, where you can visit to this day and see where he sat) or in Richmond (at St. John’s Episcopal Church), it would have likely generated some comment in the press or private letters. Since it did not, it seems likely that he worshipped at that time. He was faithful in orthodox (Trinitarian) Christian worship attendance for at least 80 percent, and perhaps 90 percent, of his 65 adult years.

Jefferson’s disdain for clergy was only in reference to state-church types, who abused their political powers for worldly gain.

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