Bradlee Dean Repeats Barton’s Jefferson Lies

Bradlee Dean’s latest bundle of stupid is entitled “Enemy of God = Enemy of America” and it’s all the usual lies and distortions, this time about Thomas Jefferson. Dean repeats many of David Barton’s false and long-discredited lies about Jefferson. Let’s take them one at a time.

Thomas Jefferson worked extensively for religious liberty (under the umbrella of Christianity).

I have no idea what “under the umbrella of Christianity” means or has to do with the first claim, which is true of course. Jefferson did work extensively for religious liberty and against exactly the kind of government endorsement of religion that Dean demands. And here is Jefferson explaining why he fought for religious liberty:

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

It should also be noted that Jefferson quite explicitly said that this law applied to all religions, not just to Christianity. In fact, an attempt was made to amend the language before it was passed to include “the plan of Jesus Christ” but it was voted down:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

The next lie:

At Jefferson’s request his headstone read, “Author … the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom.”

Yes, it did. I have no idea why Dean thinks this supports his position on Jefferson, or supports the notion that Jefferson was on his side. The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which Jefferson authored, was a rejection of that state’s established church (which was Anglican). It was part of his support for a strict separation of church and state.

Jefferson helped found the Virginia Bible Society and was a substantial financial contributor.

No, he did not help to found the Virginia Bible Society. That organization was formed in 1813 and included some friends of Jefferson. He was asked to donate money to the group and he did, giving them $50. But this hardly erases all of the other things Jefferson said about the Bible, which were pretty unequivocal. He believed that the God portrayed in the Old Testament was “cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust” and that the New Testament was written by a “band of dupes and impostors.”

He had a long history of working with missionaries, specifically those bringing Christianity to the Native Americans.

Warren Throckmorton debunks this claim:

Dean said Jefferson had a “had a long history of working with missionaries,” especially those evangelizing Native Americans with Christianity. We deal with this myth extensively in our book. In at least two letters, Jefferson said mission work was the last thing one should do to advance the Indians. Furthermore, he advocated a plan to get native people into debt so that they would be willing to sell off their lands cheaply as payment. At times, Jefferson used missionary societies to collect samples of Indian languages. However, a leader of one of those mission societies was William Linn who became a staunch opponent of Jefferson in the 1800 presidential election. Linn said in an influential pamphlet written to oppose Jefferson:

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