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"Jefferson's Other Legacy: Religious Liberty" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2021 12:27 p.m. PST

"January 16th marks National Religious Freedom Day in the United States, commemorating Thomas Jefferson's 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. These are trying times for Jefferson's reputation and it's understandable that Americans frustrated with ongoing racism focus on his slaveholding legacy. Some of his descendants want his memorial in Washington removed, state Democratic parties have renamed their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinners, and his hometown of Charlottesville voted to discontinue celebrating his birthday, its mayor suggesting that Jefferson could celebrate in Hell. At the college he founded in retirement, the University of Virginia (UVA), protesters on the left and right reduce Jefferson to a white supremacist. At a 2020 Charlottesville anti-Confederate statue rally in the wake of George Floyd's murder, one protester gestured toward Moses Ezekiel's Jefferson monument at UVA's Rotunda and said, "Speaking of statues we have to tear down, how about that one right there?" In 2016, 469 faculty and students petitioned UVA's president not to quote Jefferson because his legacy undermined the school's mission. The next year, UVA alum Jason Kessler "united the [alt] right" around Ezekiel's statue, unwittingly underscoring progressive criticisms by laying claim to Jefferson. Among anti-racist protesters who shrouded the statue in black a month later, one shouted, "There's only one side to this."

But Ezekiel's Rotunda statue also represents Jefferson's commitment to religious freedom, and religious bigotry is only less pressing today than racial bigotry because of progress Jefferson helped bring about. On January 16th, Americans should remember his hard-fought crusade against the bigotry that fueled the Crusades, Religious Wars, Holocaust, and 9/11, just to name a few lowlights. Even now, Americans are witnessing attacks on churches, synagogues, and mosques, along with discrimination justified in the name of religious liberty. Religious intolerance and violent sectarianism draw from the same tribalistic wellspring as racism and the strands overlapped in the antisemitism that animated Kessler's torch-lit march across UVA's campus…"
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian12 Jan 2021 3:46 p.m. PST

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