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No Establishment of ReligionAmerica’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty$
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T. Jeremy Gunn and John Witte

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860371

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860371.001.0001

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Disestablishing Religion and Protecting Religious Liberty in State Laws and Constitutions (1776–1833)

Disestablishing Religion and Protecting Religious Liberty in State Laws and Constitutions (1776–1833)

Chapter:
(p.70) 3 Disestablishing Religion and Protecting Religious Liberty in State Laws and Constitutions (1776–1833)
Source:
No Establishment of Religion
Author(s):

Mark D. McGarvie

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860371.003.0003

This chapter argues that the process of disestablishment, which largely took place between 1776 and 1833, was based on a republican ideal of improving society. It was at the state level that disestablishment and the separation of church and state took place during these years and continued through the nineteenth century. Many historians have focused on the particular case of Virginia in the 1780s, and some have even challenged its representativeness. Although Virginia was somewhat unusual in its use of the rhetoric of radical libertarianism, most of the states went through a similar process while using different language and concepts to explain their actions. Increasingly, religion came to be seen as a private matter, a matter of voluntary contracts among people, rather than a public truth to be decided by or be under the control of the state.

Keywords:   disestablishment, separation of church and state, Virginia, contracts

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