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Religious Freedom

Jefferson’s Legacy, America's Creed

John Ragosta

Publication Year: 2013

For over one hundred years, Thomas Jefferson and his Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom have stood at the center of our understanding of religious liberty and the First Amendment. Jefferson’s expansive vision—including his insistence that political freedom and free thought would be at risk if we did not keep government out of the church and church out of government—enjoyed a near consensus of support at the Supreme Court and among historians, until Justice William Rehnquist called reliance on Jefferson "demonstrably incorrect." Since then, Rehnquist’s call has been taken up by a bevy of jurists and academics anxious to encourage renewed government involvement with religion.

In Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed, the historian and lawyer John Ragosta offers a vigorous defense of Jefferson’s advocacy for a strict separation of church and state. Beginning with a close look at Jefferson’s own religious evolution, Ragosta shows that deep religious beliefs were at the heart of Jefferson’s views on religious freedom. Basing his analysis on that Jeffersonian vision, Ragosta redefines our understanding of how and why the First Amendment was adopted. He shows how the amendment’s focus on maintaining the authority of states to regulate religious freedom demonstrates that a very strict restriction on federal action was intended. Ultimately revealing that the great sage demanded a firm separation of church and state but never sought a wholly secular public square, Ragosta provides a new perspective on Jefferson, the First Amendment, and religious liberty within the United States.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8

Contents

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pp. 9-10

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Preface

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pp. 11-14

In writing a history book, the author often seeks to place him or herself into the historic time and place about which he or she writes. I had the privilege of writing most of this book while on Thomas Jefferson’s “little mountain,” a welcome opportunity to try to immerse myself in Jefferson’s perspective. I am deeply grateful to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 17-22

THE FOUNDER OF AMERICAN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WAS THOMAS Jefferson, or so said the conventional wisdom, and the Supreme Court, for most of the twentieth ...

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1. THOMAS JEFFERSON’S RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

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pp. 23-55

TODAY, ALMOST TWO HUNDRED YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, THOMAS Jefferson’s views on religion and religious freedom continue to occupy the courts and the public. Not only do violent arguments contend with the centrality of Jefferson and his Statute ...

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2. VIRGINIA’S ESTABLISHMENT AND THE REVOLUTIONARY BATTLE FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

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pp. 56-89

JEFFERSON’S CAMPAIGN FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND THE significance of his vision in the development of American religious freedom can be best understood on the stage on which his views and commitment to religious liberty...

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3. THE VIRGINIA STATUTE FOR ESTABLISHING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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pp. 90-116

WITH THE AMERICAN VICTORY AT YORKTOWN IN 1781, THE NEED for mobilization quickly evaporated. So, too, evaporated the solicitousness of Virginia’s Establishment leaders for religious dissenters. In the immediate postwar years, petitions from ...

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4. THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

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pp. 117-147

WHILE JEFFERSON’S STATUTE WAS WELL RECEIVED AS A STATEMENT of principle both at home and abroad, the reality in the 1780s was that twelve of the thirteen states had some form of official establishment and/or religious test oath for holding ...

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5. FROM THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO REYNOLDS

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pp. 148-184

JEFFERSON AND MADISON WERE WELL AWARE THAT THE BATTLE FOR the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom and the First Amendment did not end the battle for religious liberty in America. Since the First Amendment applied ...

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6. FEDERAL CONTROL

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pp. 185-224

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND JEFFERSON’S AND MADISON’S VIEWS ON THE same were active topics in the political discourse in the states throughout the nineteenth century. On the other hand, after adoption of the First Amendment, applicable only to the federal ...

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7. JEFFERSON’S ENDURING LEGACY

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pp. 225-238

THERE IS A CERTAIN INCONGRUITY IN THE EFFORT TO SEEK Jefferson’s views in the midst of modern controversy. After all, Jeff erson was adamant that the world is for the living; he was so insistent upon this that he would have had each generation draft its own ...

Documentary Appendix

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pp. 239-249

Notes

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pp. 251-286

Bibliography

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pp. 287-302

Index

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pp. 303-309


E-ISBN-13: 9780813933719
E-ISBN-10: 0813933714
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813933702
Print-ISBN-10: 0813933706

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Jeffersonian America

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Subject Headings

  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Religion.
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Political and social views.
  • Freedom of religion -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Freedom of religion -- Virginia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Church and state -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Church and state -- Virginia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Virginia. Act for establishing religious freedom.
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