A Baptist Minister in Massachusetts hauled a 1,235 pound cheese wheel the same day Jefferson wrote an infamous letter that was meant to assure the Danbury Baptists. Learn what the letter said and how a pastor and president impacted religious liberty at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
Pastor John Leland, a Baptist minister in Massachusetts, celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s election from his pulpit by announcing that the congregation would make a giant wheel of cheese to honor the incoming president. So, on the morning of July 21, 1801, the congregation hauled pails of curds drawn from 900 local cows. As they pressed the cheese, they sang hymns and gave thanks for the incoming president. In the end, the cheese wheel measured four feet in diameter, thirteen feet in circumference, seventeen inches in height, and weighed 1,235 pounds.
It took months for the cheese to be hauled to Jefferson, with the accompanying Leland preaching along the way. After Jefferson received the ripening cheese, he left to attend a weekly church service held in the United States Capitol building.
That same day, Jefferson wrote what would become an infamous letter. Like Leland’s Republican, cheese-mongering congregation, the Danbury Baptists felt in the minority in Congregationalist-Federalist New England. They feared the loss of religious liberty under the new president.
His letter was meant to assure them, explaining that the First Amendment erected “a wall of separation between Church and State” meant to protect the church from the overreach of the very government Jefferson was elected to lead.
It may be a cheesy story, but that’s how a pastor and a president impacted religious liberty.
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