Home School Heartbeat Radio Program
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In 1785, a tax bill motivated Virginians to voice their opposition to the establishment of religion. Hear the rest of the story out of Michael Farris’s new book, From Tyndale to Madison, on today’s Home School Heartbeat.
During the month leading up to the fourth Thursday in November, petitions continued to land on the clerk’s table. As many as eight arrived in a single day.
The effect was overwhelming. By the time the number of signatures reached eleven thousand in opposition to the general assessment, members of the House of Delegates who had previously supported the assessment were feeling antsy. On the day appointed for the third reading of the assessment bill, it was quietly allowed to die.
James Madison seized the momentum to resurrect Jefferson’s long-dormant bill establishing religious freedom.
The bill passed by a vote of 74 to 20. The final version read, in part:
... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion...
Success in forever extinguishing religious coercion in Virginia, as Madison recognized, ultimately had little to do with him. It was the petitions from faithful dissenters that carried the statute establishing religious freedom to victory.
Liberty was won by the common man.
I’m Mike Farris.