I just saw for the second time the movie, “God’s Not Dead 2.” I recommend it. It deals with a court case where a public school teacher is put on trial by the ACLU for having the gall to mention Jesus (not in cursing)—when answering a student’s question in her high school history class. At the end of the movie, they scroll a listing of a number of actual court cases that were like the fictional one featured in the movie. At the end of that scroll, they reference the Alliance Defending Freedom. That organization does battle with the ACLU, and one of ADF’s key founders was my late boss, Dr. D. James Kennedy.
All of these kinds of religion-on-trial cases get back to a misreading of Thomas Jefferson. Even in the movie, it is pointed out that the phrase “the separation of church and state” comes from him and not the Constitution. Separation of church and state is one thing. What today’s secularists demand is separation of God and state. There’s not one founding father who in the 1770s or 1780s would agree with that. Certainly not Jefferson. Nor would Jefferson have believed that by the time he died, despite private misgivings about core Christian doctrines at the stage in his life.
Was Thomas Jefferson a Christian? Does it matter?
Our book, Doubting Thomas, deals with a well-worn subject. The faith—or the lack thereof—of Thomas Jefferson. While much ink has already been spilled over this subject, the truth is there are some little known facts we hope to bring to light in this fresh study.
The story on Thomas Jefferson has been written incorrectly. Rather than being an anti-Christian bigot or a closet atheist, he was simply a disestablishmentarian. That’s all. By the end of his life, he seemed to question some of the key doctrines of the Christian faith. However, whatever doubts he personally may have had, they do not justify what is happening today: In Jefferson’s name, any expression of Christianity is often driven from the public realm.
In Thomas Jefferson’s name, religious freedom is under serious threat. In Thomas Jefferson’s name, all sorts of terrible threats to religious liberty continue. For example, recently the mayor of New York City has decreed that all the churches meeting in public schools must be evicted. That’s outrageous. Despite all the good they do for the community, despite the fact that other groups can rent these facilities, Christian churches alone were targeted for discrimination. How is any of this related to Thomas Jefferson? Because of his letter on the separation of church and state that came (falsely) to be the arbiter of what the founders meant when they gave us the first amendment.
Jefferson did not believe in state-sanctioned atheism. Period. Nor should we.