Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, 1821:
“The first settlers of Virginia were Englishmen, loyal subjects to their King and Church, and the grant to Sir Walter Raleigh contained an express proviso that their laws ‘should not be against the true Christian faith, now professed in the Church of England.’”
Virginia, so named for the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth, stated in its 1st Charter, April 10, 1606:
“Greatly commending…their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God.”
On APRIL 26, 1607, English settlers landed at the site of Cape Henry, named for Prince Henry of Wales.
Their first act was to erect a wooden cross and commence a prayer meeting.
They ascended the James River, named for King James, and settled Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.
The 2nd Charter of Virginia, May 23, 1609, stated:
“The principal Effect which we can expect or desire of this Action is the Conversion and reduction of the people in those parts unto the true worship of God and the Christian Religion…
It shall be necessary for all such our loving Subjects…to live together, in the Fear and true Worship of Almighty God, Christian Peace, and civil Quietness, with each other.”
The 3rd Charter of Virginia, March 12, 1611, stated:
“Our loving Subjects…for the Propagation of Christian Religion, and Reclaiming of People barbarous, to Civility and Humanity, We have…granted unto them…the first Colony in Virginia.”
The Church of England was the established church in Virginia from 1606 till 1786, though in 1699, the Virginia Assembly did adopted William and Mary’s statute allowing some toleration of Protestant dissenters.
James Madison wrote to Robert Walsh, March 2, 1819:
“The English Church was originally the established religion…Of other sects there were but few adherents, except the Presbyterians who predominated on the west side of the Blue Mountains.
A little time previous to the Revolutionary struggle, the Baptists sprang up, and made very rapid progress…
At present the population is divided, with small exceptions, among the Protestant Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Baptists and the Methodists.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Lafayette Black wrote in Engel v. Vitale, 1962:
“As late as the time of the Revolutionary War, there were established
Churches in at least eight of the thirteen former colonies…
The successful Revolution against English political domination was shortly followed by intense opposition…in Virginia where the minority religious groups such as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Quakers and Baptists had gained such strength…
In 1785-1786, those opposed to the established Church…obtained the enactment of the famous ‘Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty’ by which all religious groups were placed on an equal footing.”
The first Catholic Church in Virginia, St. Mary Church, was not erected until 1795 in Alexandria, and the first permanent Jewish synagogue, Kehilah ha Kadosh Beth Shalome, was not built until 1820 in Richmond.
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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