An opinion piece titled “Something to Celebrate on Religious Freedom Day” and written by Visiting Assistant Professor of History John Ragosta appeared on the Washington Post website as well as the Religious News Service. The essay was published on Religious Freedom Day, Jan. 16, which is defined as a day to celebrate the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom.
Beginning with an examination of religious discrimination and persecution in the years before the statute’s passage, Ragosta reviewed the history around the day. The statute, which created a separation of church and state, became the foundation for the First Amendment.
Ragosta wrote, “Why celebrate? Because history has shown that religion and government prosper best when the two realms are kept separate. ‘We have solved, by fair experiment, the great & interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government, and obedience to the laws,’ Jefferson wrote in 1808, ‘and we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely & openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason & the serious convictions of his own enquiries.’”
Ragosta is the author of the forthcoming book, Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed.