Two-hundred and thirty-two years ago yesterday – January 16, 1786 – the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, legislation ensuring that no citizen would have to choose between their personal faith and the law of the land.
Prior to the American Revolution, Baptists were being harassed and arrested for worshipping in their own homes. Pastors were even being incarcerated.
It was amid this atmosphere that led Thomas Jefferson to pen, in part:
“All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
Over two centuries later these foundational principles, which are enshrined in the First Amendment, are now tenuous and under assault.