Written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom was enacted by the House of Burgesses in 1786. Next to the Declaration of Independence this document was most dear to Thomas Jefferson, as he indicated in his plans for his tombstone which is pictured above. His epitaph reads:
- HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON
- AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
- OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
- AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
The Viginia Statute for Religious Freedom was one many passed by states in the decades following the Revolution disestablishing state churches. Massachusetts was the last state to disestablish religion in 1833, although its establishment consisted of a law requiring every adult male to belong to some church, the law was neutral as to denominations, and to pay taxes for its support.
The Virginia Statute helped set America down a road where churches would not lean upon the State for financial support and where churches would be free from State control, a bargain which I believe has been quite beneficial to religion in this country. (more…)