The bill for establishing religious freedom … was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.” The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
Source: Autobiography, 1821
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders do not fear dissenting opinions.
The high water mark of Jefferson’s work revising Virginia’s statutes was his bill for religion freedom. Drafted by him and shephered through the legislature in 1786 by James Madison, it ended Anglican status as the “official” tax-supported church.
Virginia was settled by Englishmen loyal to the king and the Church of England. Several pages before this excerpt are these words, “ … the grant to Sr. Walter Raleigh contained an express Proviso that their laws “should not be against the true Christian faith, now professed in the church of England.” “ The state established Anglican parishes and provided support for their ministers.
Although 100% Anglican at its founding, by the time of the Revolution, “dissenters” (i.e. non-Anglicans, primarily Presbyterians) formed the majority of Virginia’s faith community. Even so, all residents were still taxed to support the Anglican cause.
In dis-establishing the official church, some sought to preserve the idea that religious freedom was extended to all Christians, rather than just those of Anglican persuasion. “A great majority” rejected that restriction, proof that the bill’s protection extended to all. Each person was free to worship however he saw fit, or not worship any deity at all, with neither help nor hindrance by the state.
Section 1 of this bill states “Almighty God hath created the mind free … [and did not force acceptance on his creation.]” If God did not require religious obedience, neither should the state.
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The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.