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Establishing Religious Freedom: Jefferson's Statute in Virginia by Thomas E. Buckley

Thomas E. Buckley

On July 24 at noon, Thomas E. Buckley delivered a Banner Lecture entitled "Establishing Religious Freedom: Jefferson's Statute in Virginia."

The significance of the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom goes far beyond the borders of the Old Dominion. Its influence ultimately extended to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the separation of church and state. In his latest book, Thomas Buckley tells the story of the statute, beginning with its background in the struggles of colonial dissenters against an oppressive Church of England. Displacing an established church by instituting religious freedom, the Virginia statute provided the most substantial guarantees of religious liberty of any state in the new nation. The effort to implement Jefferson’s statute has even broader significance in its anticipation of the conflict that would occupy the whole country after the Supreme Court nationalized the religion clause of the First Amendment in the 1940s.

Thomas E. Buckley, professor in residence in the department of history of Loyola Marymount University, is the author of several books on Virginia’s religious history, including Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776–1787 and Establishing Religious Freedom: Jefferson's Statute in Virginia.