I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. If [this] book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Nicholas G. Dufief (19 Apr 1814)

Dufief was a Philadelphia bookseller who had been prosecuted for selling the book Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d'Organisation Primitive by M. de Becourt. Jefferson had purchased a copy as well.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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