This Day in History – January 16th, 1581 & 1786

One of the famous tenants laid out by the revolutionary “founding fathers” of the United States of America was the idea of separation of church and state. The concept is that America has no official religion, and more importantly that government stays out of religious politics. For centuries Europe faced ongoing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in which the balance of power between the two shifted based on the denomination of the current monarch.

Founding Fathers

When William Shakespeare was teenager, the English Parliament outlawed Roman Catholicism on January 16th, 1581, just a chapter in the ongoing power struggle. Fast forward exactly 205 years later to January 16th, 1786, and the state of Virginia enacts the Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1805_croppedThe Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was drafted in 1777 (though it was not first introduced into the Virginia General Assembly until 1779) by Thomas Jefferson in the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 1786, the Assembly enacted the statute into the state’s law. The statute disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations. The statute was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Statute for Religious Freedom is one of only three accomplishments Jefferson instructed be put in his epitaph. Many different faiths practiced in the United States owe their protection and freedom to the fact that Jefferson recognized the destructive power of when the state has one official religion.

Flourish 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar