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There are close cases, but a specific example may help: During a crisis, President Jefferson was asked to make an official proclamation calling on people to pray for the country; he refused, saying that it would violate the Constitution.

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Jefferson used the obvious example of child sacrifice or a law which prohibited the slaughter of lambs when the military was in short supply of wool uniforms.

The best modern example is laws against racial discrimination: While many people insisted that interracial dating or marriage violated their religion, the Supreme Court, in the 1983 case of , rightly refused to grant an exemption to anti-discrimination laws based on religion.

In the run up to Religious Freedom Day 2018, Ragosta agreed to talk with RD about the roots and the state of religious freedom in the U. ———————- What exactly is the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and how did it come to be?

The Virginia Statute is probably the most robust and certainly the most poetic statement of religious freedom in our history.

Such complexities notwithstanding, most would agree that religious freedom is a good thing even if we can’t agree on exactly what it means.

Informed people on all sides also tend to agree that the taproot of religious freedom in the United States is the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and shepherded through the Virginia legislature by James Madison in 1786.

Of course, if people don’t like particular laws, they can be changed, but Jefferson was very clear that you can’t use religion or religious freedom to claim an exemption from an otherwise valid law.

How do we simultaneously draw on our religious (and non-religious) beliefs and values in public life while also adhering to Jeffersonian values regarding religious pluralism and separation of church and state?

But he and his evangelical supporters wanted a strict wall of separation between church and state–and yet [they] believed that there would be a vibrant religion on the “other” (non-government) side of the wall.

At the same time, while belief is completely free from government regulation and government cannot directly regulate the free exercise of religion, government can pass “neutral” laws (not targeted at religion) which may happen to be inconsistent with a person’s beliefs.

The key then and now is to recognize that government must be secular, but that doesn’t mean that people or society are.

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