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“Thus in the two bills there was now before the whole people of Virginia for their consideration and action, the whole subject in both its aspects: Religious Liberty, and the establishment of the ‘Christian Religion.’ “From the sea to the mountains and beyong them, all the State was alive with the discussion. The strongest men of the times of the Revolution, with all their splendid powers, were in the contest. The result was that when the legislature of Virginia assembled, no person was willing to bring forward the Assessment Bill; and it was never heard of more. And Jefferson's original “Bill Establishing Religious Freedom' was immediately passed by the House, December, 1785, by a vote of nearly four to one, and by Senate, January 16, 1786. “Thus triumphantly Religious Liberty gained the day. “And it was Religious Liberty against ‘the Establishment of the Christian Religion.’ “It was Religious Liberty against the State recognition or support of the ‘Christian Religion.’
“Out of that campaign which they had led to such a triumphant issue in Virginia, Madison and Washington went directly into the convention that framed the Constitution for the whole nation. And they carried with them there and into the Constitution the same principles of Religious Liberty in the total exclusion of the State from any recognition of Religion, that they had made triumphant in Virginia.
“That great discussion in Virginia had not been confined to Virginia. It had spread throughout all the other States. And when the Constitution embodying these principles of Religious Liberty came before the whole people of the United States for ratification, the whole people were fully prepared. And because of this the people of the United States not only ratified what had been done, but they made the Constitution more emphatic for Religious Liberty by the very first words of the first Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” “And President Washington completed the splendid story, and his part in it, by writing as ‘A part of the supreme law,” the crowning words: “‘The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.’ “Thus, certainly do the facts demonstrate that the American and Constitutional principle of Religious Liberty is not separation of church and State only, nor as such, but is expressly the separation of religion and the State, and specifically the Christian religion. “In all the documents that are the essential features of the issue, there is not once found the phrase, ‘Church and State,’ nor any phrase of the same import: As indeed by the very nature of the issue there was no room for any. “Throughout, the phrases are “Religion,” in the abstract, ‘The Christian Religion,’ ‘Christianity,’ ‘the legal establishment of Christianity.’ “This is what was opposed in the interests of Religious Liberty. PRINCIPLES AND ARGUMENT
“Those who won for this nation and for the world this Religious Liberty, said that the proposal for the legal recognition and support of ‘the Christian Religion' was entirely subversive of Religious Liberty. “This is so, they said, because it is a “departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who, being Lord of both body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercion of either, as was in His Almighty power to do.’ “They said that it is “a contradiction to the Christian religion, and even a contradiction in terms, because a religion not invented by human policy must have pre-existed and been supported before it was established by human policy.” “They said that the bill implies, either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths, or, that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. “The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the contradictory opinions of rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: “The second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.” INALIENABLE RIGHT “They said that to judge for ourselves and to engage in the exercise of religion agreeable to the dictates of our own consciences, is an unalienable right, which, upon the principles on which the Gospel was first propagated and the Reformation from popery carried on, can never be transferred to another. “This right is in its nature an unalienable right. “Because the opinons of men, depending only on the evi
“Also because what is here a right towards men is a duty towards the Creator.
“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.
“They said that the bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law:
“‘Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”
“‘If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man. To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered.’
“They said, ‘The question has been stated as if it were, is religion necessary? The true question is, are establishments necessary to religion?” “The answer is, they corrupt religion. The enforced support of the Christian religion dishonors Christianity. “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits, more or less, in all places? “Pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society?
“In some instances they have been seen to erect a spirtual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority.
“In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny.
“In no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.”
NO SUCH AUTHORITY
“They said that, “The same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only, of his property, for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatever.’ “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. “‘Either, then, we must say that the will of the Legislature is the measure of their authority, and that in the plentitude of that authority they may sweep away all our fundamental rights.” “‘Or that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred.’ “‘Either we must say that they may control the freedom of the press, may abolish the trial by jury, may swallow up the executive and judicial powers of the State; nay, that they may despoil us of our very rights of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary assembly.” “‘Or we must say that they have no authority to enact into law, the bill under consideration.’’