Fundamental Sources on Religious Freedom

February 14. 2012

Magna Carta (1297) (We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for us and our Heirs for ever, That the Church of England shall be free, and shall have her whole rights and liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the freemen of our realm, for us and our Heirs for ever, these liberties underwritten…”) (University of Virginia; see also National Archives resources)


Roger Williams, A Plea for Religious Liberty (1644) (Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles of Christianity and civility. No man shall be required to worship or maintain a worship against his will.”) (University of Virginia)


John Milton, Areopagitica (1644) (Dartmouth College)


John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) (Constitution Society; note additional resources here)


The Declaration of Independence (1776) (National Archives)


James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance (1785) (University of Virginia)


Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Act for Religious Freedom (1786) (University of Virginia)


U.S. Constitution, Religious Test Clause (1787) (Founder’s Constitution)


George Washington, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1789) (Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia)


George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport (1790) (PBS)


U.S. Constitution, First Amendment (1791) (Yale Avalon Project)


Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Ursaline Sisters (1804) (Rothgerber, Johnson and Lyons LLP)


Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865) (University of Oklahoma College of Law)


Pope Benedict XVI, “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace” (2011) (The Vatican)



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