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Skype Interview: Gary Burton on Jefferson and Religious Liberty

“He had quite a life, and that alone merits study.”
So says Gary Burton, pastor of Pintlala Baptist Church in Hope Hull, Ala., about Thomas Jefferson. Burton talks about Jefferson and his commitment to religious liberty in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com.

Skype Interview: Gary Burton from EthicsDaily on Vimeo.

“Our country goes through phases, cyclical phases, of exalting Jefferson to an almost godlike status, and right now we’re in another cycle in which we castigate him and criticize him,” says Burton, who calls himself an “enthusiast” for Jefferson.
Burton has been studying Jefferson for a quarter-century.

“He certainly had his inconsistencies,” says Burton, “but I think his ideals of freedom and democracy and religious liberty all have been the ideals that have defined us as a nation. So I would say in spite of his inconsistencies and maybe some hypocrisies, he was right on freedom.”

Burton, who has been a Baptist his entire life and has pastored Pintlata Baptist Church for more than 40 years, said Baptists have real points of connection with Jefferson, as Baptists were long a minority in the shadow of an established church.

“Thomas Jefferson, in his quest for religious freedom for himself and for the nation, certainly identified with Baptists and our quest, too,” says Burton.

Burton touches on Jefferson’s own religious beliefs and the ways in which they have been misrepresented.

“I think he had come through a phase in life in which he was persecuted verbally by others for his religious beliefs or what people thought were a lack of religious beliefs,” says Burton, who notes that in the presidential election of 1800 Jefferson was cast as practically an atheist and enemy of the church.

Not true, says Burton.

Watch the interview with Burton at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-garyburton

Learn more about Burton and Pintlala Baptist Church at PintlalaBaptist.com

Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily