Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom – Text

In legislative bill text of the time, via Library of Virginia at Richmond and the Virginia Memory website, excerpt from Records of the General Assembly, of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom.

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right

More on Thomas Jefferson and his commitment to a secular experience in the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson: Secular Christian

Free man, honorary freethinker and unitarian, former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson lived from April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826. During this time he served (among other positions) as 3rd President of the United States of America.

thomas jefferson Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_(by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800)

Today we celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, with him ‘in spirit’ (as they say), by taking a look back at Jefferson’s public contributions, in his civic spirit, to the freedoms inherent and obtainable in this great nation. We owe much of our development to Jefferson’s willingness to be the odd man out. In almost constant challenge to the status quo, Thomas Jefferson lived a life that some today consider as having been hypocritical. In fact, Jefferson lived with the kind of impartial thinking that is necessary to social progress and freedom.

Happy Birthday, former President Jefferson and Founding Father of the United States of America.

Statesman, author, inventor, linguist, philosopher– to name only a few of his occupations– Thomas Jefferson was able to play a heavy hand in the philosophical and legal development of the nation we know today. His personal religious beliefs, coupled with his public, civic commitments, played a significant role in the formation and continuance of our secular standard of conduct as a national populace, itself largely influenced by old, often violent, ways of the proclaimed religious (including a reformed Church of England, also having marked history with religion-enabled violence).

Born in the state of Virginia (formerly the Colony of Virginia and His Majesty’s Most Ancient Colloney and Dominion of Virginia) at Charlottesville (in Shadwell), Thomas Jefferson grew up as a British subject in a colonized American state where he enjoyed many privileges . . . including an exceptionally-rounded education. During his youth, he studied at home and in religious primary and finishing schools and ultimately enrolled in a public, Royally funded, religion-required research college.

Later, around the time of the American Revolution, Jefferson worked to modernize his old alma mater by helping to usher it into its future as an elective-study institution sans divinity school– a necessary step in prioritizing reason over variously limiting religious dogmas. This mainstay ideal was made possible via revolution/break from the Royal Crown and the Church of England, and actioned via passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786). The statute “disestablished” the Church of England in Virginia, guaranteeing:

“freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Christians of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.”

The statute was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Its quite notable as well that the Statute for Religious Freedom is “one of only three accomplishments Jefferson instructed be put in his epitaph”.

Read text of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Still later, despite a fairly profound, publicly stated belief in a god, Thomas Jefferson was widely branded an atheist when he showed signs of resistance to the kind of pointed, organized evangelism that can put people off.

During his years of leadership and governance he foremost, regarding religion, sought to preserve freedom of religion for an entire, new, nation by upholding (in the face of an unreasonable Federalist Party and it’s supporters) that religion was a topic between “‘Man’ and his God”, (notice capitalizations) not for clerical interpretation nor that of any other person. Further, that there remain a strict separation of church and state, in order to preserve what is . . . has always been . . . a tenuous freedom of people.

Jefferson spent much of his life committed to defining what it is to be free from the yoke of religious interpretations of others while at the same time free to choose religion, or a religious lifestyle . . . short of infringing on the same freedom for others.

Jefferson, a Democratic Republican, ultimately won enough votes to gain the national presidency two terms running.

 

REF:

  • Wikipedia Authors
    • Statutes at Large of Virginia, vol. 12 (1823): 84–86.
    • Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, January 16, 1786″. Shaping the Constitution. Virginia Memory.
    • “The Founding Fathers and Islam (May 2002) – Library of Congress Information Bulletin”. http://www.loc.gov. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
    • “Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786)”. http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved 2017-03-17.

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