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This would set a dangerous precedent. Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions.

The natural equality of men is an internal condition of all law. This does not necessarily call for equal treatment under the law, but for the law to be capable of equal application. This is an outline of the contract theory of rights. The abuse of the right of religion is not subject to human punishment. No one should receive special privileges or be subjected to special penalties for religious reasons. An example of the right of religion. Quakers and Menonists: neither of these groups has ordained ministers. Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy.

Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion.

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The strength and support of a religion comes from God and people, not from a state of establishment. It is a contradiction to say that religion needs to be established to survive because it shows that Americans do not have the trust that God can help the religion flourish on its own. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.

What have been its fruits? Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. The debate regarding religious establishment has resulted in more bad than good. Teachers of Christianity believe the Church was at her purest and best when the government did not interfere with religious matters. Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.

A just Government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not. The government does not need an established religion for it to conduct matters and survive opposite point six. Madison goes further by saying that governments with established religions are likely to turn into spiritual tyrannies, which will then lead to government interference with individual liberties. A just government should protect religious liberty just as they would protect the rights to life and property.

Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, [ca. 20 June] 1785

Instead of holding forth an Asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of Legislative authority. Having an official state church will lead to the persecution of groups outside of the established religion. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree.


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The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. Inquisition: referring to 13th century Italy where Pope Gregory IX suppressed nonbelievers; known as an age of torture and brutal persecution.


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  6. Comparing an official state church to the Inquisition in that both persecuted faithful believers of other denominations and would turn people away from America. Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The establishment of a religion will cause people to leave Virginia in search of somewhere with religious liberty.

    Time has at length revealed the true remedy. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law? Laws that meddle with religion encourage strife and violence, as seen in foreign countries previously. Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? The Assessment Bill sets up walls between Christianity and areas of darkness, therefore the light of Christianity is unable to spread into and illuminate regions of darkness.

    If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case, where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? There is no clear evidence that the majority of people support the Assessment Bill. Actually, most evidence suggests that the majority of citizens are against it. The right of freedom of conscience is similar to all other fundamental rights — either it can be taken away by legislature or it can be left untouched.

    James Madison was born on March 16, in Virginia to a family of prosperous farmers. For most of his life he suffered from poor health and so he did not attend the College of William and Mary like most college-bound Virginians. Nevertheless, there were two competing models to which legislators could turn to sort out relations between church and state after disestablishment. The Massachusetts model endorsed the establishment of the Christian Protestant religion and, to that end, the legislature was constitutionally mandated to tax inhabitants for the support of public religious instruction Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

    1768 Petition, Memorial, and Remonstrance

    The taxpayer, nevertheless, was free to name the specific religion that was to receive the assessment. On the other hand, the Pennsylvania model warned that such taxation threatened the right of an individual to the free exercise of religion. Pennsylvania had opted not to have the state support any church. In December , the Virginia Assembly considered an assessment bill, consistent with the Massachusetts model, that would financially support the encouragement of Christianity as the state religion.

    Writing on behalf of a group who opposed this bill, James Madison addressed the Memorial and Remonstrance to the Virginia Assembly. He frequently cited the Virginia Declaration of Rights in support of his arguments. Madison pushed the national conversation further in the direction of individual free exercise of religion and away from community-endorsed religion.

    Petition, Memorial, and Remonstrance - Wikipedia

    The Virginia Senate passed the statute in January We remonstrate against the said bill —. We, the subscribers, say that the General Assembly of this commonwealth have no such authority: And in order that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may, on the one hand, turn their councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them; and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, redound to their own praise, and establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity, and the happiness of the commonwealth.

    Historical Documents

    How does Madison remind the legislators of that they were undermining the very principles of freedom of conscience that Virginians adopted in ? Add to Favorites. James Madison June 20, Citizens' "Memorial and Remonstrance" to Virginia. Introduction Virginia entered unfamiliar territory with the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Source: The Essential Bill of Rights, ed. The Arabic numerals and the footnote references are in the original.

    Editorial notes and additions to notes are in brackets. We have modernized spelling and capitalization. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men. It is unalienable, also, because what is here a right towards men is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of civil society.

    Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe, and if a member of civil society who enters into any subordinate association must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority, much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular civil society do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. True it is, that no other rule exists by which any question which may divide a society can be ultimately determined than the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

    Because, if religion be exempt from the authority of the society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the legislative body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents [2] of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited. It is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments; more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds [3] which separate each department of power be invariably maintained, but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people.

    The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

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    Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. In , Patrick Henry proposed a halfway measure known as a general assessment, in which taxpayers could designate the minister or church to which their taxes would go. This way, non-Anglican Protestant dissenters would be accommodated but Protestantism would still be supported. Madison used this time to allow Patrick Henry to become governor of Virginia, thus forfeiting his voice in the General Assembly during the next session.

    A memorial is a written statement of facts presented in the form of a petition, and a remonstrance is a protest, objection, or disapproval.