Dear U.S. Supreme Court, Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, As Well As Many Other U.S. Governing Officials:
I am writing you to share my extreme disappointment with the false, misleading religious history and information given at three locations by governing personnel: the Jamestown settlement, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, and the U.S. Supreme Court Building.
In July of this year (2006) my wife, Tracy, and I were offered a gift-trip to Washington, D.C. and Virginia by some pastor friends of ours from a large Sacramento Church, who, along with a travel company, were hosting a Christian heritage tour back to the southern-east coast. One of the primary purposes of the trip was to rediscover the history, and particularly the Christian history, of America's Founders, early settlements, and national capital.
It of course was an awesome week-long tour, which included seeing sites from the first English settlement in Jamestown, Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's estate), Mt. Vernon (George Washington's estate), Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot), a tour of the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and the U.S. Supreme Court Building, to a close-up view of the White House and a walk through of a host of memorials: the Holocaust Museum, Korean War Memorial, World War 2 Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial, among other sites.
As great as the trip was, it was unfortunately hindered on three occasions by the revisions or exclusions of religious history and information. Quite frankly, as a Christian religion major in my undergraduate and graduate studies, I was stunned by the information given (or not given). Let me discuss each in turn...
The Absence of Christian History at the Jamestown Settlement Tour:
While the tour guide of the Jamestown museum and settlement was cordial and informative on many points, there were two momentous, religious oversights.
First, we were not only taught several times, but asked to repeat on several other occasions, the reason the first settlers came here to America: "to make money." While this is partially true, it was not only totally overstated by its emphasis and repetition, but there was absolutely no hint of the religious purpose given and stated under the Virginia Charter of 1606, which called for the "propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God." There was also absolutely no mention of the fact that the colonists' first act, after having landed at Cape Henry, April 27, 1607, was to erect a large wooden cross and hold a prayer meeting, conducted by their minister, Reverend Robert Hunt. As colonist George Percy noted back then, "The nine and twentieth day we set up a cross at Chesupioc Bay, and named the place Cape Henry." In fact, it seemed whenever there was an opportunity to address any of the religious characteristics or zeal of this first community, they were avoided.
Secondly, at the Jamestown museum and settlement, as the tour guide was leading us through the very heart of the replica of the community, the Anglican Church, we asked if the guide could speak about the significance of the three religious plaques (the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, etc.) placed on the wall at the front of the church. Our guide's response was that she was unable to speak about it, a clear reference to all of us that she was trained to minimize the religious aspects of the settlement. We were all appalled, and shared so with her, especially understanding that this was an educational tour and that the religious education was being eliminated from the heart of a people who were devoutly Christian.
As a result, I am first respectfully requesting that the religious history, particularly the devout Christian faith and foundations of the first American settlers, be rediscovered and reintroduced into the Jamestown tour guides' information and other educational parks and organizations about America's early colonization history.
The Absence of Christian History and Faith of Thomas Jefferson on Monticello Estate Tours
From Jamestown we traveled to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. What a beautiful estate! Again, while our guide was cordial and informative about many matters, when asked about the religious faith of Thomas Jefferson, he abruptly and actually quite arrogantly said, "We all know Jefferson was a strict deist [a person who believes in a Creator who does not involve Himself in the daily affairs of men], who ardently fought for the separation of Church and State." His added comments left everyone believing Jefferson was essentially (what might be called today) a progressive, and especially one who would have never allowed any mixture of religion in government. Again, while these statements have some truth in them, they were exaggerated and gave no hint of how his religious passion prompted him to use both his governmental positions and even funds to establish churches, distribute Bibles, and promote Christianity. Let me explain.
Religiously speaking, Jefferson was raised Anglican (Church of England), which is one significant reason why he (like others) opposed the tyranny of king, priest, or whomever. That is also why, in the New World (specifically Virginia), he pushed for one of his crowning achievements, the Bill for Religious Freedom, which passed in 1786 by the Virginia General Assembly. (At the time, Anglicanism was also the only denomination funded by Virginia taxes). It helped to establish a freedom of religion (not freedom from religion) in our country, and would serve as a predecessor of sort for the later First Amendment and the religious liberties it would guarantee in the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses....