Thomas Jefferson and the Ground Zero Mosque

16 Aug

By Gary DeMar | Published: August 16, 2010

President Obama stepped into it over the weekend. Speaking Friday August 13, 2010, at a White House dinner to honor Ramadan, the President told his audience, “Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” an obvious reference to the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero mosque. On Saturday, while spending the day in the Gulf, the president attempted to clarify his earlier remarks: “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

Utah’s attempts at statehood were held up over the religious practice of polygamy. It wasn’t until Utah agreed to include in its constitution a ban on polygamy that the territory was considered for statehood. Statehood was officially granted on January 4, 1896.

Prior to Utah’s statehood, the Supreme Court had ruled that “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries”[1] and “the spread and practice of polygamy is . . . . contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.”[2] So contrary to President Obama, it’s not true that all people have “the right to practice their religion.” The First Amendment does not give unlimited freedom to individuals or groups who act in the name of religion, especially when that religion’s goal is the domination of the world or even a part of it by force.

On a side note, Judge Vaughn Walker, in the Proposition 8 decision, is arguing that the more than seven million people who voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman have no standing in their appeal of the case because they could not prove how homosexual marriage harms them.[3] The same argument could be made over bigamy and polygamy since no one is forced into multiple marriages and thereby can’t suffer harm by the polygamous practices of others. The Supreme Court in 1890 saw great societal harm in the religious practice of polygamy. In my estimation, the same argument can be made for Islam. Consider that German authorities “have closed a Hamburg mosque used by the Sept. 11 attackers as a meeting place before they moved to the United States. A statement by Hamburg officials says the Taiba mosque was shut down and its cultural association was banned” August 9, 2010.

The First Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law. . . .” There is no prohibition on municipalities, counties, or states. Constitutionally, Congress, since it is supposed to be the only law-making national body, cannot make any law regarding religion that would affect the states. Cities, counties, and states can make determinations based on religion. An appeal to “our founding” will prove this to be true. Nearly all the state constitutions at the time had particular requirements dealing with religion over which the national government had no jurisdiction. If the states wanted the same, less, or more freedoms than found in the national constitution, the states had to provide for them in their constitutions. For example, here are the religious provisions in Alabama’s constitution:

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

Why include these words if the First Amendment applied to the states?

President Obama and other supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque appeal to our nation’s “founding,” in particular Thomas Jefferson. Here are some additional comments the President made on August 14 in reference to Jefferson:

And tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar[4] at the White House, more than 200 years ago.

First, Islam is not noted for its religious diversity. Christians cannot evangelize in Muslim countries. Churches are burned while police do nothing. Muslims who convert to another religion can be executed. Even the presence of the Bible is prohibited by our own military and the behest of Islamic officials when American soldiers are deployed in Muslim nations:

Bibles were confiscated and destroyed after Qatar-based Al Jazeer television showed soldiers at a Bible class on a base with a stack of Bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages. The U.S. military forbids its members on active duty—including those based in places like Afghanistan—from trying to convert people to another religion. Reuters quotes Maj. Jennifer Willis at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, who said “I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera’s clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed.”[5]

Second, President Obama’s favorable appeal to Jefferson is only part of the story. The Koran’s peace initiatives are Orwellian: “Submission to Islam is peace.” Peace is the absence of any religious or political opposition. This is the indisputable history of Islam as Paul Johnson writes:

Koranic teaching that the faith or “submission” can be, and in suitable circumstances must be, imposed by force, has never been ignored. On the contrary, the history of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. It took half a millennium or reconquest to expel the Moslems from Western Europe. The Crusades, far from being an outrageous prototype of Western imperialism, as is taught in most of our schools, were a mere episode in a struggle that has lasted 1,400 years and were one of the few occasions when Christians took the offensive to regain the “occupied territories” of the Holy Land.[6]

What did Jefferson learn from his study of the Koran? As early as 1786, Jefferson, who was serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, the Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Ambassador Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. Peace would come at a price. If America wanted “temporary peace,” a one-year guarantee, it would cost $66,000 plus a 10% commission. “Everlasting peace” was a bargain at $160,000 plus the obligatory commission. This only applied to Tripoli. Other Muslim nations would also have to be paid. The amount came to $1.3 million. But there was no assurance that the treaties would be honored. In vain Jefferson and Adams tried to argue that America was not at war with Tripoli. In what way had the U.S provoked the Muslims, they asked? Ambassador Abdrahaman went on to explain “the finer points of Islamic jihad” to the Koranically challenged Jefferson and Adams. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.[7]

Abdrahaman was paraphrasing the Koran’s “rules of engagement” found in the 47 Surah: “Whenever you encounter the ones who disbelieve [during wartime], seize them by their necks until once you have subdued them, then tie them up as prisoners, either in order to release them later on, or also to ask for ransom, until war lays down her burdens.” Unless a nation submitted to an Islamic nation, whether it was the aggressor or not, that nation was by definition at war with Islam. Jihad means “to submit.” A non-aggressing nation is still at war with Islam as long as it hasn’t embraced Islam. Islam’s goal is to conquer the world, either by the submission of one’s will or by Allah’s sword.[8]

When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute demanded by the Islamists, Tripoli declared war on the United States. A United States navy squadron, under Commander Edward Preble, blockaded Tripoli from 1803 to 1805. After rebel soldiers from Tripoli, led by United States Marines, captured the city of Derna, the Pasha of Tripoli signed a treaty promising to exact no more tribute.

President Obama is not the first person who has tried to whitewash Islam’s history with America. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, took his constitutional oath on Jefferson’s copy of the Koran. How ironic given Jefferson’s disdain for Islam’s principles. There’s a reason the “Marines’ Hymn” begins with these words:

From the Halls of Montezuma,

to the shores of Tripoli.

The line “To the shores of Tripoli” refers to the First Barbary War, specifically the Battle of Derne in 1805. Jefferson, embroiled in a war with Islamic terrorists in his day, commented, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been suffered [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!”[9] Little has changed since Jefferson’s day. The Muslims of the Ground Zero Mosque will say one thing and mean another.


  1. Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333, 341-344, 348 n. (1890). []
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States 136 U.S. 1, 49 (1890). []
  3. The seven million people have standing because their votes were nullified by a single judge. In addition, the process of amending the California constitution is by referendum: “A proposed amendment or revision shall be submitted to the electors and if approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election unless the measure provides otherwise” (Art. 18, sec. 4). This, too, was violated by a single judge’s poorly argued decision. []
  4. “Iftar (Arabic: إفطار‎), refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.” []
  5. Fred Jackson, “U.S. military destroys soldier’s Bibles,” OneNewsNow (May 5, 2009). []
  6. Paul Johnson, “‘Relentlessly and Thoroughly’: The Only Way to Respond,” National Review (October 15, 2001). []
  7. Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 40–41. []
  8. Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006) and Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005). []
  9. Thomas Jefferson, congratulatory letter to Lt. Andrew Sterett (1760–1807). Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 102. []

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Gary DeMar

Author: Gary DeMar

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. Author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, he also hosts The Gary DeMar Show, and History Unwrapped—both broadcasted and podcasted. Gary has lived in the Atlanta area since 1979 with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and are enjoying being grandparents to their grandsons, Calvin and Paul. Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).

Gary has written 1032 articles.

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2 responses to “Thomas Jefferson and the Ground Zero Mosque

  1. Trencherbone

    August 16, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Does any politician seriously think that allowing the Muslims to build this Victory Mosque will pacify them or prevent further attacks? In fact, it will only encourage them, in the same way that allowing the Nazis to occupy the Rhineland led to their occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and then the whole of Europe.

    The politicians should read the links under ‘Appeasement’ at EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ISLAM

  2. David Alexander

    September 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    It always starts as ‘Free Speech’
    10 September, 2010

    In the name of “free speech” there have been a number of atrocities which have taken place in our land. Over most of which the far left, inclusive of the ‘fair and balanced’ media have made all kinds of diffusive comments. Intending to down play the importance or relevance to what our society should feel is anything other than a brief, mildly unpopular statement of someone who is merely motivated to express their own frustrations. “Golly, let’s all just calm down and be able to let someone express themselves under the 1st Amendment. It’s done, it’s over, grow up and move on.” That is until a position they themselves find ‘offensive’ sends them off the proverbial deep end.

    Let us all admit that obviously there are deeper roots to many things said or done than what the doer or speaker wishes to admit. That being said, there are also many who wish to take anything said or done with a lot more personal injury than they should ever have had to. Yet they do. They have a “right” to.

    To the majority of us in the free world, (of what’s left of the free part of this world) I say “Well done.” Your tolerance of the manipulation of the doctrines this nation was first founded on has been greatly noticed. You listen, and you hear what you need to so you may make your own educated decision regarding that issue. Then you move on to continue living your own lives as you know you must, as law abiding citizens.

    We each follow a combined collection of rules (or governing influences) from which we may have as much in common as we do differences. The differences we accept in one another include, (and for you legal minds) but are not limited to such governing influences such as religion, no religion, financial position or the lack of financial freedom, the source and level of your education or the lack of an education, your health or your dependencies’, parental and social environmental influences, and I promise the list goes on and on for some time.

    The one governing influence we all have in common, to help us coexist and productively, often generously assist one another is the collective rules we live by and the guidance offered to us by the representatives we elect to represent ourselves in local, regional and national government. The differences in the way the two most popular parties we currently have are numerous. A collection of some 250 plus years of ideas and points of view form the very fiber of every declaration, letter of law and statute we as citizens live our socially interactive lives by. Some are morally biased, and some are more community or individually biased. Regardless of its source, the laws and standards we have in place are not for the exclusive use of the loudest voice (or media) and certainly do not give any person, group or official the legal clout to deny a like privilege to a person or group when merely based on the popularity of the position taken by them.

    I am certain we all remember the more popularized than average painting of the Virgin Mary, due to the fact the artist painted it with excrement. Not all who looked at that debate agree it was a good thing to do. It certainly was not the thoughtful thing to do. The intent of this ‘artist’ was not to invoke pleasure or positive response. I can speculate. I do not have anything else to offer than my own belief in his or her higher purpose. But trust me; there is always a higher purpose. For good, or for anything other than good.

    The ultimate outcome of this little media blitz was that we all must accept the artists “gift” to the art world and move on. So we did. Rights upheld, we seldom speak or hear of it.

    Prayer in school offended some one in 5000 parents. Not just the idea that their students should not be allowed to say, or think (silent prayer) in school, but that others should not be allowed to do it either. How arrogant is that? Even though a commanding average of more than 90% of school children came from families who believed in and practiced a faith at that time. Come on people, let’s be fair. “Someone out there says it’s wrong, therefore you 250 million people are wrong. You better shape up.” Poof – School prayer was gone.

    Those topics were more of a light hearted example to demonstrate the ‘Tolerance’ we exercise amongst each other every day. There are innumerable smaller examples of vast varying natures. Unfortunately, as we age as an open society we are experiencing more and more difficult cases where we are seeing the ‘rights’ of an individual exercised at the cost of comfort to many, and the forced decline of cohesiveness we are allowed to convey with each other. A more serious example is the tar and feathering of an American citizen because of his faith. Joseph Smith had been continuously abused and eventually murdered by other American citizens who had a ‘right’ to their own opinions. It always starts with an opinion. It was not enough that the pain and suffering of one fellow citizen be tolerated by the very government which preaches ‘freedom of speech’, but that today the media jabs relentlessly at the Mormons, as well as the American Indian, the Amish, the kind or any other minority that differs with, openly conflicts with their agenda or speckles the image that they wish to be representative of themselves.

    Here is a brief lesson to the young, and a reminder to the learned. “Who ever is wise shall never again touch an open flame.”

    To burn the Quran is wrong, to someone. I am hard wired to believe that how we think is sacred. My belief system states that what we feel and wish to say is a sum of what we are and where we came from. And at the time I meet my maker it will also be the whole of what dwells within my heart that I shall be judged on. That is not an exact scriptural quote. But as I proceed I want you to understand that I have no claim upon what anyone else thinks or feels. Nor do you have a right to claim the same position over me. The church leader in Florida who has the need to burn this document, the Quran is making a personal decision to do so. He speaks from his heart and many others chose to agree that it is a proper symbol to convey at this time.

    To burn the Quran is wrong, to someone. I have more than one point of view of this. If there were a forest fire and the best and only defense to slow or stop this fire were to light a secondary fire to burn out trees and brush ahead of the main fire, I would have a good shot at stopping the further spread of this deadly menace. In essence starting a fire to stop a fire. In the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf, Iran, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan (no offense intended if I missed a conflict), in all these conflicts we placed many of our own loved ones in harms way to preserve the rights we enjoy every day, or for similar rights to be made available to others who are oppressed, or far worse.

    What is in the Quran, and emulated by those who read it and speak of it and wish for it to be the way of the future world for all is, sadly not the big issue. For me the main issue is that these strong armed tactics of controlling society as a whole – body, mind and soul has failed in every nation who ever attempted to use it, since man kind has recorded history. The ideals inside the Quran are even out in the open for the entire world to view. Every society supporting it and following the leaders who impose it are as poor, vicious, bullet ridden, and divided as you could ever imagine. A number of these countries were even once, centuries ago (or longer) plush healthy states that at some specific point in their existence found themselves either conquered, or worse taken over by the enemy from within and have not been able to litigate, fight, dig or crawl their way back towards any civilized condition since.

    To burn the Quran is wrong, to someone. There are a good number of civilized people in this world who see what is happening to their nation and the world at large. The citizens of my country here in the U.S.A. are not nearly as ignorant as a whole, as they have been lazy. Sooner or later the need to push back must be sparked within each of us or you and the rest of us have learned nothing. The proverb of being doomed by history being allowed to repeat itself is no quip, or silly conservative scare tactic. History repeats itself every day. Whether you are a part of the decision making process is the only variable to affect the outcome.

    My Son learned about the pain of placing his hand upon the stove as a toddler. He has since then never willingly repeated this act and has proven to himself that there are limits and even consequences to his actions. Even though the American public has experienced many types of warfare, we have not had the scope of a high powered religious war waged directly upon ourselves. That is until now. The adversary is skilled. We’ve felt its sting for a decade. Their experience spans a millennium. They go unchallenged and have felt no resistance for so long that they do not feel the hurt they impose upon others.

    To burn the Quran is wrong, to someone. Maybe I still have some inkling of respect for those who not only follow the Quran, but who would not use the Koran and its teachings to hurt others, or have tortured and killed all those countless Christians and other non-Muslim believers over the last millennium; to you I applaud your tolerance and good heart. But specifically as a gift of knowledge to any of the others who don’t condemn such actions, and in fact look forward to committing even more acts of pain to those you merely disagree with, I say you are opening the proverbial Pandora’s Box, and to no ones benefit. So,

    I believe to burn the Quran is wrong, to someone. Need a match?



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