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Wellspring of LibertyHow Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty$
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John A. Ragosta

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388060

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388060.001.0001

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What Did They Fight, and Bargain, For?

What Did They Fight, and Bargain, For?

(p.137) 6 What Did They Fight, and Bargain, For?
Wellspring of Liberty

John A. Ragosta (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Given dissenters' central role in Virginia's adoption of religious liberty, their understanding of the meaning of religious freedom takes on particular importance. Virginia's evangelical dissenters, for both religious and political reasons, supported a strict separation of church and state and opposed any formal notion that the United States was a “Christian nation.” They insisted that all government privileges and rights be equally available to all people, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist. Contrary to modern suggestions that such views are secular, dissenters were deeply concerned about the corrupting influence of the state on the church. Dissenters also supported a very robust free exercise of religion, including a public religious discourse. They would have supported exemption from some laws which, while nominally nondiscriminatory towards religion, particularly impacted worship or religion.

Keywords:   First Amendment, church and state, establishment clause, free exercise, religious liberty, original intent, evangelicals, Baptists, Christian nation

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