Thomas Jefferson had it commemorated on his tombstone, along with the Declaration of Independence. What was it? It was Jefferson’s Article of Religious Freedom, passed this day, Jan. 16, 1786, in the Virginia Assembly. In it, Jefferson wrote: “Well aware … that Almighty God hath created the mind free … all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments … tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone.”

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