1/16/19 – American Religious Freedom – Our Proud Heritage By John Compere MRFF Advisory Board Member



American Religious Freedom Day is the annual national observance on January 16th celebrating our historic religious freedoms and commemorating the day in 1786 when the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson and advocated by James Madison (both Virginians, Founders and Presidents) was passed by the Virginia Assembly. It mandated “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”  


This lawful act separated religion from government in Virginia, disestablished the Church of England as Virginia’s state church, and provided the genesis for our American Constitution separation of church and state, authored by Madison and advocated by Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Paine, and many others.


World history records the human harm caused for centuries throughout Europe when governments and religion combined. Separation of religion from government is a fundamental liberty of free people keeping public government out of private religion and private religion out of public government. It was clearly our Founders’ intent as provided by the governing documents they authored, indisputably documented by historic records, publicly acknowledged by every President except the current clueless contrarian, and continuously confirmed by the US Supreme Court as the law of our land.


The Declaration of Independence (not law nor a governing document) contains universal terms inclusive of all beliefs (religious and non-religious). Moreover, it declares “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed” (not from a deity or a religion).


Our lawful governing Constitution is secular, contains no deity reference

and mandates “no religious test” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office (Article VI). History confirms no public prayers were provided during the 116 day Constitutional Convention. James Madison reminded delegates of its secular purpose – “This is derived from the superior power of the people”  (not from a deity or a religion). The Preamble provides six secular reasons our nation was established for “We The People” (not for a deity or a religion).


The 1st Amendment’s first 3 clauses provide our historic trinity of religious liberties – (1) freedom from religion, (2) freedom of any or no religion, and (3) freedom for religious speech. Our government is prohibited from lawfully “respecting”  a religion. It is religion-neutral (neither anti-religion nor pro-religion). Americans have the right to their beliefs, but the exercise of those rights cannot deny or disparage others retained by the people (9th Amendment). The Texas Constitution provides similar religious liberties.


It is historically significant the Americas’ original religion was Native American Animism followed by Viking Old Norse Polytheism. The Christian religion was a later foreign import from the ancient Middle East by way of Rome. Neither Middle Easterners nor Romans discovered America or founded the United States. World history confirms the majority of early colonists fled Europe for America to escape oppressive Christianity from the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church. Over 80% of colonists did not belong to Christian congregations in 1776.


We became the first nation in history to constitutionally protect independent freedom of belief (religious or non-religious). It also provided a genesis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 proclaiming “…everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”. Freedom of belief is the egalitarian essence of our individual liberty. Consequently, religious liberty flourishes as our proud American heritage.


American diversity of belief is acknowledged in many ways. World Christian Encyclopedia recognizes 10,000 distinct world religions and 2,000 different Christianities in America alone. The US Department of Defense official list of religions for only the military currently includes 221 different belief groups. Its 2010 survey showed over 1/3 of the military do not claim Christianity.



Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship…” & “…the Government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction…”. – 1st President GEORGE WASHINGTON


We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions…shall enjoy equal liberty…we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” – 2nd President JOHN ADAMS


It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others…we are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.”  – 3rd President THOMAS JEFFERSON


…religion & Govt. will exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” & “…a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Government…” – 4th President JAMES MADISON


“Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist. Gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the right of all of us to live according to our conscience.”  – US Senator TED CRUZ (Texas Republican) 



John Compere

Brigadier General, US Army (Retired), Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam), retired US judge, retired trial lawyer and Texas rancher


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