Friday, March 21, 2008


Render Unto Caesar ...

Who better to hear from this Blog Against Theocracy weekend than James Madison? Thomas Jefferson had drafted The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, though it was not enacted then. In 1785, Patrick Henry lead an effort in the General Assembly of Virginia to pass a bill that would have assessed all the citizens of Virginia to support religious teachers from a limited number of Christian sects. Madison wrote his influential "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" in opposition to Henry's bill. A few months later the General Assembly passed Jefferson's religious freedom bill. Madison's words can still stir:

If "all men are by nature equally free and independent," all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an "equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience." 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 offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. ...

Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord by proscribing all difference in religious opinions. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State.


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