We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

Quoting the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Article 16.  Full text of the letter.
Added on 14-Jun-10 | Last updated 29-Oct-10
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