September 23 in freethought history…

thomasjeffersonSeptember 23, 1800 – Thomas Jefferson, just months away from his controversial election, in which he would unseat one-term President John Adams and become the third President of the United States, writes to Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence): “They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Jefferson, a Deist, had written the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom (which disestablished the Church of England in that state and guaranteed its citizens religious freedom), and so he was viewed with distress (to say the least) by the leadership of influential churches in the new United States, who accused Jefferson of being an “infidel” and a “howling atheist.”

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