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BSC presents Jefferson's views on church and state

Posted on 1/16/2013

Bismarck State College begins its fourth program in the 2012-13 Conversations at BSC series Sunday, Jan. 27, with a special visit from Thomas Jefferson for a discussion about church and state.

Humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson gives a Chautauqua-style, historical performance in the character of America's third president for the program, " Separation of Church and State: A Conversation with Thomas Jefferson." After the presentation, Jenkinson leaves character to discuss the topic with BSC President Larry C. Skogen, a history specialist.

The program begins at 3 p.m. in a new location - the Bavendick Stateroom in BSC's National Energy Center of Excellence and is presented at no charge.

Jenkinson and Skogen will attempt to determine what Jefferson's philosophy of church and state was, to place his views in context of the U.S. Constitution and his time, and to assess the current status of the "wall of separation." Questions and comments from the audience will complete the conversation.

Source of Jefferson's interpretation comes from correspondence with the Baptists of Danbury, Conn.  On Jan. 1, 1802, Jefferson sent them a letter acknowledging their letter of praise for his religious tolerance. In his reply, Jefferson said his reading of the First Amendment was that it erected a "wall of separation between church and state." Though not stated in the U.S. Constitution, these words have come to serve as the best short paraphrase of the doctrine behind the First Amendment as well as a lightning rod for the country's continuing national conversation about the relationship between religion and government.

Jenkinson is an award-winning humanities scholar whose presentations bring history alive with humor, drama and knowledge of his subjects that comes with years of study of the historical time period and the character. He also performs as Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery, former president Theodore Roosevelt, Grand Canyon explorer John Wesley Powell, Father of the Atomic Bomb - J. Robert Oppenheimer, and writer John Steinbeck.

More conversations are scheduled March 24 and May 5. Visit the Conversations at BSC at bsctalk.com or contact BSC Continuing Education, Training & Innovation at 224-5600 for more information.

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