10 Founding Quotes on Religious Freedom

After Gary Johnson called religious liberty a “black hole” last week, I’m just going to put this here:

1. “All men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” – George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

2. “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship, or religious sentiments.” – The Northwest Ordinance, 1787

3. “[T]o 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.” – Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786

4. “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the General Authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society.” – James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

5. “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” – The Northwest Ordinance, 1787

6. “We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, shall not be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, not 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.” – Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786

7. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” – 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 1789

8. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.” – George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

9. “[T]he legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.” – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, 1802

10. “Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man’s house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man’s conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.” – James Madison, On Property, 1792

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