With special thanks to Constituting America and Heritage College, we will be taking part in their project:The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. It is a 90 day challenge to learn and dive deeper into understanding the Constitution.
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Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
For someone to want to be remembered for something, they must feel it to be of great importance. For Thomas Jefferson, on his tombstone, he wished to be remembered for only three things: the author of the Declaration of Independence, the father of the University of Virginia, and author of the law for religious freedom.
A standing issue for many years has been of religious freedom. Some say we are not a Christian nation, while the rest say that America is. However you want to look at it, America was founded on deep Judeo-Christian beliefs. That is supported when one looks at the careful wording of the revered Founding documents, and others throughout its history.
Rooted in those, is this law written by Thomas Jefferson declaring religious freedom. This law set the precedence for the eventual adoption into the Constitution as part of the First Amendment. It states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .”
This law came at a time when many churches were trying to establish their foundations, and become the influence and governing bodies of areas. So, it was of great importance to offer dividing lines as to where the relationship between religion and government started and ended. Enter, the separation of church and state.
Well, Jefferson sought to define this separation. He issued that people were, and should be, free to choose whatever religion they wished to be associated with. He also wanted to state that religion was not the governing body, but that it was influential in the opinions and beliefs of the minds of men. And, that’s exactly what this law did.
Its eventual passing by the state of Virginia in 1786, would later be similarly adopted by the other thirteen colonies. And, its influence was powerful in the passing of what we now call the Bill of Rights. Which, we all know is part of the Constitution.
So, is there a reason for the separation of the church and the state? Yes. Is America rooted in the Judea-Christian principle that we are free, and endowed with Natural Rights? Most definitely. It is what separates America from all other nations. The freedom not only to worship whatever God you wish, but also not have one church sit at the head of the state.
This was a proud moment for Thomas Jefferson. So proud that it was one of three things of all that he did, in which he wanted to be remembered for. Thankful we are, as a people and nation, for the passing of this law and its adoption into the Constitution.
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