Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's push for religious freedom

Statue of Jefferson reading from the Declaration of Independence, University of Virginia
Jehovah. Allah. Brahma. Ra. Atma. Zeus. God. These are the names of deities etched on a tablet held by an angel in the Moses Ezekiel statue that stands in front of the Jefferson-designed Rotunda at the university our third president founded in Charlottesville, Virginia. Nearby at his mountaintop home of Monticello, his gravestone cites the three things for which he most wished to be remembered: the Declaration of Independence, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
On January 16, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the statute into the state's law. It disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations.
After the Confederacy fell, Moses Ezekiel studied sculpting in Berlin and then Rome, where he was made to live in impoverished Jewish ghettos he later called a “place of tears.” The four spirits surrounding the bell of his statue embody four Jeffersonian ideals – Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Religious Freedom.
More on Thomas Jefferson and his era.

2 comments:

  1. Good post. Along the same lines, this interesting article from a few years ago discusses Jefferson’s personal copy of the Qur’an.

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    1. Interesting. As I'm sure you know, his library was phenomenal. I know it formed the core of the Library of Congress's initial holdings.

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