August 1, 2006
In his Autobiography Jefferson recounted the 1786 passage of the law he proposed in 1779 to secure religious freedom in Virginia, the Statute for Religious Freedom:
The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and the Infidel of every denomination.
Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Modern Library 1993 edition, pp. 45 and 46.
* Image is a photo of detail from a painting of Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, courtesy of the New York Historical Society by way of the Library of Congress.
[Encore post from August 1, 2006]