Statute on Religious Liberty

Today, January 16th, is Religious Freedom Day.  On this date in 1786 the Statute for Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted not far from where I’m writing this.

The statute, which remains in effect today (theoretically, at least), says that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

It’s probably no news to you that modern progressive liberals reject the concept expressed so beautifully by Jefferson.  In fact, just today, progressives showed their disdain for not just the spirit of religious liberty, but the law itself.

Here in Richmond, Judge Patricia West was nominated to the State Corporation Commission, a powerful body that regulates industries like power and energy.  The position on the SCC has been vacant for some time.  Judge West, a law professor at Regent University, who also served both Governor George Allen and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has a long and distinguished record of service. 

But for liberals, all that is irrelevant. Instead, they are going into full-blown hysterics because at some point in time Judge West expressed a belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Such a position, perhaps motivated by Judge West’s faith, should automatically disqualify her according to secular liberals in Virginia. Ignoring Jefferson’s words that “opinions in matters of religion” should not “diminish” anyone’s role in the public square, they go on the offensive against all those who hold deeply held beliefs that contradict their own, imposing a Constitutionally forbidden religious test that reeks of anti-Christian bigotry.

Not only are liberals on the offensive against Judge West, they are also attacking Vice President Mike Pence’s wife Karen for taking a job teaching at a Christian school in Virginia that requires its employees to adhere to Christian teaching on marriage and human sexuality.

You know, a Christian school, guided by Christian doctrine, hiring Christian people who at least try to live by, well, Christian teachings. 

Such is just too much for the secular left and “mainstream” media in today’s Virginia. 

The attacks seen today are a reminder of just how much work we have to do to restore religious freedom in our Commonwealth.  Given that more than two-thirds of Americans can’t name more than one or two of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution’s First Amendment, including religious liberty, one can only imagine how few are familiar with Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom.

So, the words of the Statute follow.  I encourage you to forward it to your friends and family to honor Religious Freedom Day and to help us in our effort to restore religious liberty for all:


 "Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and 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 endeavoring to impose them on others, have 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, and 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 labors, 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 religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though, indeed, those 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 rules 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 the 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 to be 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."