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May 6 2005
Robertson: Jefferson promised no atheists in cabinet?!?

Pat Robertson said in a May 1st interview on THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS :

Well, you know, Thomas Jefferson, who was the author of the Declaration of Independence said he wouldn't have any atheists in his cabinet because atheists wouldn't swear an oath to God. That was Jefferson and we have never had any Muslims in the cabinet. I didn't say serve in government. I said in my cabinet if I were elected president, and I think a president has a right to take people who share his point of view, and I would think that would be ...

Now, I don't mean to call Robertson a liar, but I am rather skeptical of this claim. I mean, Jefferson was the only US president to openly state that he was not a Christian. (He might not have considered himself an atheist either, though some of his contemporaries certainly called himself one. He was a DEIST. BTW Lincoln's early writings from before he had political aspirations suggest that he was probably an atheist...though a closeted one.)

Anyway, the point is that I find it hard to believe that Jefferson would have ever said such a thing. I can find quotes from Jefferson about how wise and wonderful he thought Jesus' teachings were, but he also writes quite specifically about not believing Jesus was divine or divinely inspired ("This belief carried no more personal imputation than the belief of Socrates that he was under the care and admonition of a guardian demon. And how many of our wisest men still believe in the reality of these inspirations while perfectly sane on all other subjects?") and that Christianity is based on stories, no better nor worse a religion than any other ("I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythology.")

I can even find quotes from Jefferson specifically addressing the question of whether religious beliefs should keep someone out of a governmental office, in which he seems quite clear about the fact that religious belief should have nothing to do with it:

that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right . . .

What I can't find anywhere is a comment in which he says that he would want to keep atheists out of his cabinet. Is there such a quote? What was Roberston referring to in his comment, or did he just make it up as a complete fabrication? (Perhaps he was divinely inspired to know that Jefferson said this even though we have no record of it anywhere!??!?)

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