Bill Federer is like a poor man’s David Barton. He writes a “column” every week, published in the Worldnetdaily, that consists of little more than a bunch of quotes from the founders, or some other figures in history, with little to connect them to the point he claims to be making. His latest column is a textbook example. “Would Jefferson be accused of hate crimes today?” the headline asks. This is his weird attempt to answer that question.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Lafayette Black wrote in Engel v. Vitale, 1962: “As late as the time of the Revolutionary War, there were established Churches in at least eight of the thirteen former colonies. … The successful Revolution against English political domination was shortly followed by intense opposition … in Virginia where the minority religious groups such as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Quakers and Baptists had gained such strength. …”
Justice Hugo Black continued: “In 1785-1786, those opposed to the established Church … obtained the enactment of the famous ‘Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty’ by which all religious groups were placed on an equal footing.”
The “Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty,” drafted by Jefferson, prevented the government from infringing on the rights of conscience, Jan. 16, 1786: “Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments … are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone. …”
Jefferson continued: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical … that … laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust … unless he … renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges … to which … he has a natural right. … that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion … is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others … that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself. …”
Jefferson concluded: “that no man shall be … molested … on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”
Jefferson’s view, that no man should be molested “on account of his religious opinions” would have pitted him against current “hate crime” and “sharia” laws.
Uh, what? That is literally his entire “argument.” There isn’t even an attempt to connect premise to conclusion here. He cites Hugo Black’s ruling in Engel v Vitale, a ruling he no doubt thinks was wrong (this was the ruling that took mandatory prayer out of public schools), referring to the political situation in which Jefferson’s Act for Establishing Religious Liberty was passed. That act was then the basis for disestablishing the state churches around the country and for the First Amendment’s religion clauses as well.
And then he quotes Jefferson’s act about how the government should stay out of religion and leave it up to each individual. Federer and Jefferson could not be more opposed to one another on the matter of separation of church and state, but he quotes him as if they were on the same side. And then, out of the blue, without even a hint of an argument, he declares that Jefferson’s views would have fun him afoul of our hate crime laws. This is nonsense on roller skates.
First of all, a hate crime requires an actual crime. Jefferson would have to have committed an actual crime and done so on the basis of racial bigotry in order to be in violation of our hate crime laws. What any of that has to do with his position that the government should stay out of all matters of religion is, and no doubt will remain, a mystery comprehensible only to someone looking to make a point that is so inane that this is the kind of “argument” one is reduced to. It’s truly baffling. And “sharia law” simply doesn’t exist in this country, so I can’t imagine what that has to do with anything.