Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, the signing of which is celebrated throughout America today, was also a staunch advocate of religious freedom.
Several years after crafting the Declaration, he also penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, promoting freedom of conscience and separation of church and state. Passed by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, it preceded the Bill of Rights by three years.
The statute permitted the individual to chose his or her own faith and practice it as he saw fit—an official endorsement of freedom of religion for the first time.
It included the truly revolutionary concept: “That to 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.”
The Virginia statue brought into being that state’s benign attitude toward freedom of religion or belief. This served as the precedent for the new federal government and has remained the standard in America ever since.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.