Jefferson Billboard Opens Forum for Debate
Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088
(Washington, DC, October 28, 2011) — Humanist leaders expressed enthusiasm about a recently removed California billboard that is focusing national attention on Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father who advocated for a wall of separation between church and state. "It's uplifting to see Americans discussing the views of Jefferson and examining his influence on the secular nature of our constitution,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
The catalyst for this new interest in Jefferson comes from a billboard paid for by a local California group called the Backyard Skeptics. The billboard used a statement widely attributed to Jefferson: “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology.” The sentiment on the billboard is not out of character for Jefferson, despite its misattribution. Quotes (from the Monticello website) show Jefferson did indeed find serious fault with religion:
“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.”
"...those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, the most sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man, endeavored to crush your well earnt, & well deserved fame."
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
The billboard and subsequent discussion is highlighting how "Jefferson, along with other Founding Fathers, had no intention of founding a specifically Christian nation," continued Speckhardt. "Backyard Skeptics leader Bruce Gleason appropriately accepted responsibility for the billboard and spurred a great opportunity to validate Jefferson's critique of religion and reverence for reason."
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.