The Virginia Statute Of Religious Freedom Essay

776 Words Aug 15th, 2015 4 Pages
Thomas Jefferson can be seen as many men: a revolutionary whose signature is proudly displayed on the Declaration of Independence, a slave owner who disagreed with slavery, or the enemy of religion. In his life he fought for people’s individual rights and happiness, his most vicious being the one fought to pass the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It took almost ten years to pass, and cost him any esteem the church once held for him, he was able to take away a great portion of power the elite had held within the church. The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom earned him the title “enemy of religion” because with it he threatened those who gained power through the alliance of the church and state by questioning their authoritative ability to force individual opinion. The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom was written in 1777, in it Jefferson calls for the end of “All attempts to influence religious belief by temporal punishments...” He believed that the government should not have the power to discipline unorthodox views that conflicted or questioned the church. Of course, during this time it was a very controversial belief, because the church and the state were very closely associated, if not the same institution. For Jefferson to call for the end of “temporal punishment”, he was suggesting that the government should not be allowed to force the will of the church. He believed, as historian John Ragosta explains, that “...government only has the authority to…

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