President John Adams, About Blasphemy Laws

American theocrats are fond of talking about how the Founding Fathers intended for the United States to be a Christian nation. A look at the actual historical record reveals exactly the opposite.

Most of the founding politicians of the USA were deeply opposed to laws prohibiting blasphemy. Among them was John Adams. He wrote, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1825:

“There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny, or to doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself, it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not much better; even in our Massachusetts, which, I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemies upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any arguments for investigation into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Volney’s Recherches Nouvelles? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws… but as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed.”

The law that Adams referred to was the same law that was used to prosecute Anthony Bimba 101 years later.

john adams on blasphemy