Thomas Jefferson Religious Liberty Analysis

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Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on Religious Liberty Understanding the beliefs that our country is built on is essential to understanding where we are today. The importance of natural rights, including religious liberty, is one of the most fundamental of these beliefs. Two of the biggest influences on the foundation of religious freedom in our country were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At the dawn of the establishment of the United States of America as an independent nation, both men argued passionately for the need for religious liberty and the just opposition of any policy working against it. Despite sharing so many views, however, the two men contributed varied perspectives on the issues spurring their dedication to securing this…show more content…
He begins by arguing that that men do not choose their opinions. Instead, these opinions naturally follow from the arguments and evidence that are “proposed to their minds” (PR 18). That is, opinions and beliefs are involuntary. They are not chosen and, although they can be influenced by what a person is exposed to, they ultimately follow from how the mind reasons out the evidence that it collects. This means that beliefs simply cannot be changed by outside decrees or forced into submission by others. Jefferson even argues that this is the way that God intended things to be. The mind was created free by God and, because it cannot be forced to change, Jefferson claims that it is clear that God wishes it to stay free.
This assertion of the essential freedom of the mind has a number of implications about the importance of protecting that freedom. Jefferson expresses that leaders who force their religious opinions on men act with “impious presumption” and stresses that rules such as those that require a man to financially support opinions the man disbelieves are both tyrannical and sinful (PR 18). Men are fallible, and as a result those who compel others to follow the religious views that they hold to be true usually establish false
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Perhaps even more so than the bill discussed earlier, this letter clearly and concisely illustrates the sentiments Jefferson expressed on religious freedom. He holds that “religion … lies solely between man and his God” and that the “legislative powers of the government reach action only, and not opinions” (PR 24). These views reflect back on those expressed in his earlier bill, mirroring the idea that civil rights are not influenced by religious opinions. Jefferson remarks on his appreciation for a “wall of separation between church and State,” believing this to further the reestablishment of the natural rights of men (PR _). This goes hand-in-hand with the bill, in which he emphasizes the wrongness of men being excluded from eligibility for political positions based on religion. Jefferson, moreover, maintains that man “has no natural right in opposition to his social duties,” and thus that protecting the natural rights of men could not injure society by causing a man to act against it (PR 24).
Like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison was also quite open in his defense of religious liberty. Madison made his case for religious liberty in his “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” and “Detached Memoranda.” He was adamant in his belief in the classification
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