Jefferson's Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom (1786) is celebrated January 16th by presidential proclamation, a practice first established in 1993 by George H. W. Bush. However, the passage of the statute was extolled by James Madison in 1826 when he wrote in a letter that the bill establishing religious freedom had been "enacted into a permanent barrier against Future attempts on the rights of conscience”1. In another letter to the bill's author in the year of the statute's adoption, Madison proclaimed that it "extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind”2 reiterating Madison's own belief that religious opinion, or opinion of any kind for that matter, cannot be compelled, coerced, or controlled by any legislation or action of civil authority as opinions are a matter of conscience—"our most sacred property”.
There is no denying the significance of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom as well as other state constitutions and bills of rights which recognized religious liberty and liberty of conscience for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (only three states maintained established religions at the time of the Constitutional Convention). This peculiarly American principle became part of the supreme law of the land.
Unfortunately this "permanent barrier” is threatened by ignorance and complacency—the twin foes of personal liberty—among the citizenry. Don't leave the preservation of your religious liberty up to a proclamation by the president. Know and exercise your God-given, unalienable rights. Also, do not be deceived, post-modernism, secular-humanism, and atheism are religions which by law are not allowed preferred status, preferential treatment, or support for their establishment by disestablishing every tradition of Christianity in the public square. "Prescriptive pluralism destroys liberty of conscience (and therefore religious liberty) and attempts to equalize the relevance of all faiths. . . Religious pluralism is the postmodern counterfeit of religious liberty, which in turn, demands toleration.” (2008, p. 234)
A copy of the Virginia Statute and a paraphrase of the same are included in A Guidebook for Religious Freedom Day available at religiousfreedomday.com.
Dr. Gai Ferdon presents a well-researched explanation of these important topics in Chapter 6 of her book A Republic If You Can Keep It (2008) available from FACE in softbound print or electronically as part of the Christian History Library in Libronix®.
1 James Madison to George Mason, July 14, 1826
2 James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, January 22, 1786
Both of these references are cited in full in Chapter 6 Notes of Dr. Ferdon's book.