During his lifetime, some of the strongest criticisms against Jefferson on religion were leveled at him because of his work to end state-coerced religion. He helped
disestablish the official state-church in Virginia, i.e., the Anglican Church “by law established.” In his own day, many critics of Jefferson—virtually all of them from
the northeastern states—confused his disestablishmentarianism with anti-church sentiments. They were wrong, just as are some modern critics of Jefferson who see
him as a complete infidel. (Nor are we saying he was orthodox, certainly not by the end of his life.)
Thomas Jefferson is one founding father with whom many secularists and modern skeptics identify. Based on a flawed image of Jefferson, the ACLU (i.e.
the American Civil Liberties Union) and like-minded groups and individuals constantly use the courts to intimidate people from expressing faith in public life
and thus chip away at our nation’s heritage and religious freedom. The late author and prison reformer Chuck Colson once said he resents those who use the phrase
“civil libertarian” for such purposes because Jesus was the ultimate genuine civil libertarian, and yet they oppose his name being mentioned in schools or public life.