For one of my writing projects, I found myself needing to learn more about religious liberty and its consequences.  Researching on the internet, I found there was a treasure trove of excellent thinking on the topic and I started to collect quotes that I found particularly edifying.  I wanted to share the quotes because I feel they give clearer understanding of the foundations of religious liberty, its privileges and limits—yes, it has limits—and the wide variety of benefits that come out of it (some of which are enjoyed by agnostics and atheists as free-riders!)  I think it will give us a better grasp of what’s at stake in conflicts over religious freedom in our own culture and in other cultures so that we will able to articulate logically and civilly our principles and defend our rights if/when we find ourselves involved in those conflicts.  This isn’t meant to be fear-mongering or alarming, just rational from a faithful perspective.

At the end, I will list some scripture references from the Book of Mormon that have bearing on religious liberty, both of good instances and misuses of it.


“Religious freedom only makes entire sense as a social and constitutional arrangement on the supposition that God exists (or very likely exists); that God makes claims on the loyalty and conduct of human beings; and that such claims, rightly perceived and understood, are prior to, and superior to, the claims of any human authority. Simply put: God’s commands – God’s will, God’s purposes– rightfully trump man’s. Freedom of religion, understood as a human legal right, is government’s recognition of the priority and superiority of God’s true commands over anything the State requires or forbids.

That is the essence of religious liberty, understood as a natural law right. So understood, it is not a right that human authorities confer on those whom they rule – a dispensation. That would be, subtly and ironically, inconsistent with the very liberty the State purports to confer. It would be an assertion, at some level, of the priority and supremacy of the State and not God: the State, in its beneficence, grants the exercise of religion – the strivings of individuals and groups to discern and fulfill their duties to God, in good faith, as they understand them – a certain amount of leeway. But the nature and extent of such freedom is, on such a view, ultimately for the State to judge.

The state-conferred-dispensation view, which I think is the dominant view today, is not really religious liberty, in the sense of freedom of religious exercise from ultimate State control. It is a cipher, or shadow, or parody of religious liberty. At bottom, what justifies religious liberty – the only thing that makes it at all sensible as a liberty distinct from other liberties – is some shared sense that true religious obligation is more important than civil obligation and that, consequently, civil society must recognize this truth. Religious liberty is the legal duty of civil society to defer to the plausibly true free exercise of genuine religious faith.

That is the only conception that can fully justify the idea of constitutional protection of “free exercise” of religion – protection of freedom of religious conduct in opposition to the State’s typical commands. The same premises support a related aspect of religious freedom (embodied in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment): Because God’s commands, rightly perceived, trump the State’s commands, it makes no sense to say that the State can determine what God’s commands are and whether an individual or group has rightly perceived them. The State may not in this respect, or any other, set itself up as the arbiter of religious truth and enforce its determinations as law. The State is presumptively incompetent authoritatively to determine what God does or does not command. At least, that must be the operating premise if the right of religious freedom is not to be a chimera. And even if that premise must give way in clear, or extreme, cases – because surely there are some claims individuals make about God’s commands that are simply intolerably and irredeemably false – a strong presumption of state incompetence needs to be the starting point for any coherent system of religious freedom from state control or interference. Thus, it is incompatible with religious liberty for the state to “establish” an official religion or in any fashion prescribe, and then coerce, religious exercise.

Significantly, this is not because we deny the possibility that religious truth exists. Rather, the underlying theory of why we protect religious liberty is that such a thing as religious truth does exist. We value freedom for religion because we rightly prioritize true religion over the State’s commands. We simply recognize the possibility of human error, and especially of governmental error, in matters of religion and so we do not trust the State to tell us the proper way to know, worship, and serve God. We value freedom for religion precisely because, if society gets these things wrong (as experience tells us it is quite likely to do) such errors, where backed by the power of the State, will tend to endanger religious truth. Error likes to stamp out truth if it has power to do so. And error is probable. Moreover, even if it were the case that society or the State did know religious truth, we would rightly question, on theological as well as practical grounds, the value and propriety of coercion in matters of religious conviction. True faith does not result from coercion, or so we are inclined to believe, often as a matter of religious faith.

Thus we protect the free exercise of religion for all (or as many as possible) and prohibit the establishment of any, not because of skepticism about the possibility of religious truth but because of the conviction that there is such a possibility as religious truth and because of agreement that religious truth is more important than anything else. We are skeptical not about truth, but about human perceptions of it and especially about State authority to discern or prescribe it.

My thesis is that this is, in its essence, the theory underlying and justifying the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment and that they should be read, understood, and applied in this light. The First Amendment’s religious liberty provisions make no sense except on the supposition that God exists – that such a thing as religious truth exists and that the commands of true religious faith are real and superior to the commands of civil society. The framing generation, I submit, generally shared the supposition that God exists and generally shared this understanding of what religious liberty is for. (They disagreed, widely and not always cheerfully, about the nature and character of God, the manner and content of his revelation, and resulting human obligations and right conduct; but that is part of why that generation came to agree on the idea of religious freedom.)

The language of the Religion Clauses appears to reflect such an understanding – that is, the First Amendment’s terms seem to reflect quite well the essentially religious premises underlying any serious commitment to the idea of religious liberty. The Free Exercise Clause is properly understood as conferring broad substantive immunity from government laws or regulations that would operate so as to prohibit sincere religious belief and exercise. As long as a claimed religious practice is truly religious, not pretextual, and has any plausible claim to religious truth – that is, as long as the claimed religious right is not contrary to the clear, universal moral command of God, resulting in serious harms outside the truly consenting, sincerely confessing community of faith – the State’s rule must yield in the specific instance. The Establishment Clause is properly understood as barring government from compelling religious belief or exercise or punishing failure to adhere to a state-prescribed religious orthodoxy. It protects the free non-exercise of religion, just as the Free Exercise Clause protects its free exercise. The two clauses protect the same central liberty, from two slightly different directions: the Establishment Clause forbids government prescription of religious exercise; the Free Exercise Clause forbids government proscription of religious exercise.1

I began by saying that religious liberty only makes entire sense on the basis of these essentially religious premises about the existence of God and the priority of God’s commands. It is possible to craft a narrower, more crabbed conception of religious liberty on different, more-or-less “secular” premises. But such conceptions, while in some respects more intuitively appealing to the modern liberal mind, have less explanatory power both in terms of why we would have – why the framing generation would have insisted upon – a specific First Amendment protection for the free exercise of religion and in terms of what that provision actually says. Secular theories of religious liberty are weaker theories and harder to defend on principle.”

(Michael Stokes Paulsen, “The Priority of God (A Theory of Religious Liberty)”
(See more of the above PDF for a fabulous set of arguments, of which the above quote is only an introduction)

“Some religious acts, by individuals or communities, represent a public pursuit of religious obligation, or witness of truth claims, in civil society: for example, the establishment of religious hospitals, schools and colleges, homes for the aged, soup kitchens, or immigration services. Some carry religious actors into political discourse and competition, forming religion-based political parties, or making religion-based political arguments for or against laws and policies. Religious freedom is the civil right of both individuals and communities to perform these acts on the basis of full equality under the law….

First, note that religious freedom as here defined includes other fundamental freedoms. They are integral elements of religious freedom. In pursuing the religious quest, religious actors exercise freedom of belief or non-belief, expression, assembly, and association. They must enjoy full equality under the law, and freedom from persecution and unjust violence….

America's founding generation identified religious freedom as "the first freedom" because they saw it, in effect, as a precondition for the other freedoms. James Madison wrote that each of us has rights that flow from the duty we owe God. “This duty is precedent, both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe."

Further, Madison insisted that if men were to fulfill their obligation to God they must have freedom -- especially freedom from the coercive powers of the state. “The Duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of our discharging it, can be governed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Compulsion or Violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise of it according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the Magistrate. . . .”
As George Washington expressed the point in his final farewell address: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are the indispensable supports."
A second example from contemporary history: political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that the third wave of democratization, which began in the 1970s and extended into the 1990s, was dominated by Catholic nations, and a key element of their transition to democracy was the Church’s embrace -- during the Second Vatican Council -- of religious liberty for all. 

It appears that religious freedom may have had a galvanizing effect. In nations like Poland, Spain, Chile, and the Philippines, other freedoms had existed to one degree or another – a relatively free press, some economic freedoms, or limited forms of associational freedom. But until religious liberty became part of an interlocking web of key freedoms, the others seem to have been insufficient to trigger either a transition to democracy or its consolidation.

Why might this be the case? Because any state that protects religious liberty thereby limits itself. Religious liberty empowers religious actors both to perform services that might otherwise be carried out by the state, and to adhere to an authority beyond the state. For this very reason, authoritarian governments might understandably permit some secular assembly and speech, while banning or restricting religious assembly and speech. Such has been a pattern throughout history - from Stalin, Mao and Hitler, to Mexico's Plutarco Calles and Syria's Bashar Assad.

By the same token, empirical studies are confirming a strong relationship between religious freedom and the other freedoms that contribute to the longevity of democracy. The work of sociologists Brian Grim and Roger Finke, for example, shows high statistical correlations between religious liberty and the presence of the other fundamental freedoms that ensure the longevity of democracy, including civil and political liberty, freedom of the press, and economic freedom. Religious freedom is also highly associated with overall human development, and the absence of violent religious extremism. As Grim notes, correlation does not prove causation. He concludes however, that "advanced statistical tests suggest that there is indeed a critical independent contribution that religious freedom is making" to the other freedoms….
But there appears to be something distinctive about religious freedom, something close to what the American Founders meant when they declared it the "first freedom." Religion bears on the most fundamental and powerful questions that most human beings feel compelled to answer, such as, "why do I exist and what is my destiny? Given my understanding of transcendent reality, what must I do to live a good life?” The religious questions, in other words, are not instrumental. They arise naturally and address ultimate things, with an inherent power that seems universal and timeless. The religious questions, in short, beckon us all.

It is unsurprising then, that the answers we derive from the religious questions shape thought and compel action, both individually and in association with others. As such, the questions and the answers inevitably bear on the institutions of civil society and the norms of political life….

Religious freedom is the sine qua non of living freely. You may allow me to vote, own property, and associate freely in the public square in every other way. But if you do not permit me to speak and to act on those beliefs about ultimate reality that define who I am and why I am on this earth, then the other freedoms mean little. In a very real sense, then, all human freedoms depend on the freedom of religion."      

“The state has a certain stake in individuals’ consciences: this is part of the point of legislation, which should be both a reflection and a guide for public conscience.

These first two points intersect in religion’s vital role of speaking truth to power.
Religion should not hold temporal power; that’s a relationship that always goes to seed. Religion does its best public policy work by standing in tension with the state, and likewise, the state does its best work in tension with religion. The state needs a contrary voice to keep it in good conscience. Of all possible such voices, religion has the greatest potential to stand in an independent position, not beholden to government, and not dependent on government for its ethics, principles, and values.

The state will not always appreciate a contrary voice. Conscience can be quite a bother to individuals; why not also to the government? And so the state will often be tempted to still that voice by limiting religious expression, mandating that it remain private, dismissing it as “belief,” and otherwise sweeping it aside. To allow the state to succeed in that, however, would be to promote the state’s governing with a seared conscience. It would be disastrous to more freedoms than just religion.

Other freedoms work hand-in-hand with religious liberty, including freedom of speech, assembly, voting, and others. These all work together  to help ensure limits on the state’s power. Still there is no other liberty, no freedom-of-something-or-other, that can accomplish the same public good that freedom of religion can.”

(Tom Gilson, “Three Reasons Freedom of Religion Matters” Thinking Christian. July 1, 2013.

“Moreover, we can draw on an experience unavailable to the authors of our religious liberty, namely 200 years of American history. The bold experiment in separation has, on the whole, succeeded remarkably well. It has kept America free of religious wars, persecution and established intolerance. It has enabled us, with spasms of regression, to overcome prejudices entrenched for centuries and to be increasingly humane to those whose faiths seem to us odd or even offensive. It has fostered an ethos according to which most Americans see religion as a beneficent contributor to our nation’s social welfare. And it has largely benefited the life of the faiths themselves.

Forced to rely on persuasion and example rather than on government support, American religions exhibit a vitality and personal significance unmatched in most other societies. American religion, in my estimation, has weathered Western civilization’s turn to secularity comparatively well, and that, I think, is largely because it has needed to stand on its own.

Liberals have already valuably explored the spiritual virtues of human freedom and creativity. They now need to make plain why their demythologization of sin and commandment does not eventually lead to a destructive anarchy. In a time when freedom is regularly abused, what limits do they place on the exercise of the individual will? What do they consider an irresponsible, irreligious exercise of personal autonomy, and how do they propose to teach and exemplify their doctrine of religious constraint?

Conservatives have tellingly demonstrated the spiritual fruits of faithfulness to God’s expressed will. They now need to explain, why a doctrine of inerrancy is not likely to lead to the sinfulness and profanation of fanaticism. What value does their understanding of God’s revelation place upon democracy? What sort of freedom is appropriate in their midst and how able are they to grant full dignity to people who hold different beliefs?

Few theological tasks could be as critical for our time as these: teaching us how, while loving freedom, to mandate high standards of behavior; and how, while maintaining God’s truth, to accommodate variety and dissent. Freedom of religion is not a condition achieved once and for all by a statute composed in Virginia, or by-statements recorded in the Constitution. It is today what it has always been: an incomparable American adventure, a courageous effort to solve in life what cannot be reconciled in theory."

(Eugene B. Borowitz, “Between Anarchy and Fanaticism: Religious Freedom’s Challenge”

"The problems are not simple, and over the years the United States Supreme Court, which has the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the meaning of the lofty and general provisions of the Constitution, has struggled to identify principles that can guide its decisions when government action is claimed to violate someone’s free exercise of religion. As would be expected, most of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Mormons. Not surprisingly, government officials sometimes seem more tolerant toward the religious practices of large groups of voters….

Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religiousfreedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution….

Even today, leaders in all too many nations use state power to repress religious believers.
The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are (1) the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates, and (2) perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights….

[A]theism’s spokesmen are aggressive, as recent publications show.[ix]As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices “have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.”[x]….

As Richard John Neuhaus said many years ago, “In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.”[xiii]….

We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.

Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Timesbranded this “violence and intimidation” against religious organizations and individual believers “simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.” [xv]….

religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and positions in ways that are respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and that contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that is essential in a pluralistic society….

“The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief.”

(“Transcript of Elder Dallin H.. Oaks Speech on Religious Freedom” 13 Oct 2009, Newsroom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“No government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience” (D&C 134:2). Religious conscience is grounded in one’s belief in being accountable to God for conduct. The effort of secularists and governments to coerce conduct in conflict with religious conscience leads to social disunity and is a primary reason that religious liberty is essential for civil peace.

The role of religion in blessing a secular society was set forth succinctly by Alexis De Tocqueville in his classic Democracy in America. He stated, “The greatest advantage of religion is to inspire … principles. There is no religion which does not place the object of man’s desires above and beyond the treasure of earth, and which does not naturally raise his soul to regions far above those of the senses. Nor is there any which does not impose on man some duties toward his kind, and thus draw him at times from the contemplation of himself.”

(Quentin L. Cook. “Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom” Ensight, Sept 2012

"The right to freedom of religion is under renewed and, in some cases, increasing assault in many countries around the world. More than one-half of the world's population lives under regimes that severely restrict or prohibit the freedom of their citizens to study, believe, observe, and freely practice the religious faith of their choice. Religious believers and communities suffer both government-sponsored and government-tolerated violations of their rights to religious freedom. Among the many forms of such violations are state-sponsored slander campaigns, confiscations of property, surveillance by security police, including by special divisions of ``religious police'', severe prohibitions against construction and repair of places of worship, denial of the right to assemble and relegation of religious communities to illegal status through arbitrary registration laws, prohibitions against the pursuit of education or public office, and prohibitions against publishing, distributing, or possessing religious literature and materials.

(5) Even more abhorrent, religious believers in many countries face such severe and violent forms of religious persecution as detention, torture, beatings, forced marriage, rape, imprisonment, enslavement, mass resettlement, and death merely for the peaceful belief in, change of or practice of their faith. In many countries, religious believers are forced to meet secretly, and religious leaders are targeted by national security forces and hostile mobs."

"Religious freedom can be a bulwark against violent extremism. According to research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there is a correlation between countries that impose more severe and inappropriate government restrictions on religious freedom and those more prone to sectarian violence. Governments that repress freedom of religion and freedom of expression typically create a climate of intolerance and impunity that emboldens those who foment hatred and violence within society. Government policy that denies citizens the freedom to discuss, debate, practice, and pass on their faith as they see fit also undercuts society’s ability to counter and combat the biased and warped interpretations of religion that violent extremists propagate. Societal intolerance increased in many regions during 2012….

In many parts of the world, government officials, no matter how serious the offense, often acted with impunity, abusing individuals for holding or expressing their beliefs without being called to account by courts or government authorities. Governments exacerbated religious tensions within society through discriminatory laws and rhetoric, fomenting violence, fostering a climate of impunity, and failing to ensure the rule of law. In several instances of communal attacks on members of religious minorities and their property, police reportedly arrested the victims of such attacks, and NGOs alleged that there were instances in which police protected the attackers rather than the victims. As a result, government officials were not the only ones to commit abuses with impunity. Impunity for actions committed by individuals and groups within society was often a corollary of government impunity."

(U.S. Department of State. “International Religious Freedom Report for 2012: Executive Summary”

“Where you find that religious freedoms are being abused, you find people are being persecuted for lots of other things, as well.”  
 (Sayeeda Warsi, Senior Minister of State, United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Minister for Faith and Communities  “A Conversation on Freedom of Religion or Belief”,  Council on Foreign Relations,

"Regimes that fear religion as an alternate source of authority imprison members of religious communities they view as unwelcome competitors. These authoritarian governments crack down on members of civil society that dare to challenge the status quo, including members of religious minority and majority communities, through repressive legal systems and laws and also brute force. The challenges raised by the relative ease of communication in the Internet age further threaten their grip on power.

Government inaction to prevent or punish religious freedom violations coupled with efforts to sponsor violent ideologies is a proven recipe for human rights abuses. Instead of enforcing the law and protecting vulnerable populations, an increasing number of countries are turning a blind eye to repression, thereby creating climates of impunity. Just look at Nigeria and Pakistan to see what happens when authorities do not enforce the law: violence and death result. Hate-filled ideologies add fuel to this fire. For example, there continue to be reports that funding originating in Saudi Arabia is used globally to finance religious schools, mosques, hate literature, and other activities that support religious intolerance and, in some cases, violence toward non-Muslims and disfavored Muslims."

(“Testimony of Dr. Robert P. George before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
on Defending Freedoms :Highlighting the Plight of Prisoners of Conscience around the World”

"Countries designated by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern” because they restrict religious freedom (such as North Korea, Iran, and Burma) suffer in other ways as well. They also tend to have the least economic liberty—and some of the worst economic outcomes.

On the other hand, governments that respect religious liberty tend to respect other freedoms as well. Religious freedom is strongly related to political liberty, economic freedom, and prosperity. As one researcher of international religious liberty notes, “[W]herever religious freedom is high, there tends to be fewer incidents of armed conflict, better health outcomes, higher levels of earned income, and better educational opportunities for women.”

(Jennifer A. Marshall. “Why Does Religious Freedom Matter?” The Heritage Foundation. Dec 20, 2010.

"Europe, with its history of warfare and fratricide among religions since the time of the Reformation, continues to struggle with the question of how to treat new sects and minority religions. Solutions range from laws allowing the “liquidation” of sects in France, to banning religious leaders from entering several countries, to government commissions finding that the new groups do not, after all, pose a real threat. The question of dealing with the “sects” is liable to play a significant role in the evolution of a unified European identity, as will the question of favoring certain churches over others—-such as the Catholic and Lutheran churches in Germany or the Orthodox Church in eastern Europe….

Muslim countries continue to take exception to international standards regarding religious freedom. Imprisonment, confiscation of property, and even executions still take place for the crimes of blasphemy and apostasy in several Muslim nations. The genocide of Christian and native-religious tribal groups in southern Sudan resulted at least partly from a government policy to Islamize the region. In some countries, minority religions are left unprotected from Muslim fanatics who take literally the teaching that “infidels” may be killed and their daughters forced to became second or third wives of Muslim men. Fundamentalist movements such as the Taliban and al Qaeda threaten to impose even stricter Islamic regimes with harsh punishments against infidels and apostates."

“Freedom of Religion”, New World Encyclopedia.

"In all areas of liberty, including religious liberty, our fundamental freedoms are not without limits. Perversely, such limits may be an essential element in the maintenance of the freedom itself. Freedom of speech is limited by our laws against libel and slander, by the responsibility not to incite to vio­lence or do public harm, and by limits on the pub­lication and dissemination of material that offends the public decency. The children of the 1960s--I'm one of them--perhaps didn't learn the lessons of these limits very well, but they are there nonethe­less, and absolutely essential to the maintenance of our society. Similarly, we have not learned very well the limits of religious liberty, but there are, and must be, such limits.
We need to rearticulate what they are, and reinforce them both domestically and in our for­eign relations.
I'll suggest just a few:
I've already mentioned murder and violence. We cannot accept invocation or incitement to violence, in the name of religion or any other factor.
We cannot support forced conversion, or exter­nal sanctions for apostasy.
We need to oppose establishmentarianism, as our Constitution insists. We must promote religious freedom.
We must insist on religious freedom as a freedom to be enjoyed by individuals rather than, or in addi­tion to, groups.
These concepts are not easy. I've called them lim­its on freedom, and they are, but each of them in reality is a limit on the ability of a religion to impose itself on others as an orthodoxy. So although they are limits on freedom, they are at the same time vital underpinnings and necessary conditions of a sys­tem in which freedom can be maintained.
Every one of the principles is going to put us in conflict as a society with at least parts of Islam or Islamic thinking. We need the vocabulary and the courage to prevail in that conflict as a war of ideas. The alternative is a war of bullets….

It allows every religious group to make its truth claims in the public square and to compete with others within the kinds of limits that Terry was talking about.
I think the primary limit is no coercion: no pri­vate or government coercion that privileges mem­bership in your religious tradition, no coercion to prevent exit or deny entry, no use of coercion to require people to accept revealed truths that are not subject to public reason, using the Rawlsian phrase there. In other words, you can't have a law that requires people to believe in the Trinity, like South Carolina did in its constitution at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. But you can have people who openly talk about the Trinity or the Qur'an. I hope that's getting to the issue you were talk­ing about.
But there is something missing here, and it involves religious freedom for majority Muslim communities. Afghanistan, which is an American-brokered democracy, has a magnificent constitu­tion, for the most part, and a functioning democrat­ic government. But it doesn't have religious freedom for majority Muslims, let alone the minorities, because they cannot speak out about Islam. They cannot write articles or give speeches and say that the Qur'an doesn't really require us to execute peo­ple for apostasy. People who do that get charged with blasphemy. This is the absence of religious freedom, but we don't think of it in that way.

When somebody gets charged with blasphemy in Afghanistan, we work behind the scenes to get them sprung. Two years ago Abdul Rahman was charged with apostasy. He was certainly guilty; he had apostasized from Islam and had become a Christian. Now he was going to be executed in this Islamic democracy with a constitution that talks about human dignity. We responded by putting pressure on the government to let this guy go. He fled for his life, and we declared a victory for reli­gious freedom. But it wasn't a victory, it was a defeat for the long-term goal of advancing religious free­dom as a basis for stable democracy.

We need to work to give majority Muslims the opportunity to discuss their own religion. So that, I think, is a critical issue concerning religious vio­lence and the defeat of Islamist extremism. There are Muslims who write about this, there are Mus­lims who want to express themselves on this sub­ject, but they're afraid to do so and we're not giving them enough help."

(Thomas Farr, Terry Miller. “Diplomacy in an Age of Faith: How Failing to Understand the Role of Religion Hinders America's Purposes in the World” . The Heritage Foundation. Dec 8, 2010

This habit of reconciling civil and religious authorities as well as the process of harmonizing the interests of competing religious groups helped to fortify the discipline of self-government. Meanwhile, the moral authority exercised by religious congregations, family, and other private associations helps to maintain limited government. The American Founders frequently stated that virtue and religion are essential to maintaining a free society because they preserve "the moral conditions of freedom."

Faith-Based Diplomacy. The U.S. should encourage and build on "faith-based diplomacy." This is a type of Track II diplomacy conducted by non-officials. It combines insights from religious faith with the practice of international relations.[16]Pope John Paul II is the preeminent example of a "faith-based diplomat," but many other religious believers would also qualify. This sort of unofficial diplomat has moral authority and engages in conflict resolution by appealing to transcendent spiritual resources, including sacred texts and prayer. Such diplomacy appeals to a religious tradition's own tenets, rather than trying to minimize deep and irreconcilable differences among faith traditions.
For example, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy is helping to reform Pakistani madrasas.[17]The Institute for American Values is sponsoring an Islam-West series of conversations between scholars and religious figures from both parts of the world.[18]

"While most American and European foreign-policy elites may hold a secular worldview, much of the rest of the world lives in one of the great religious traditions," writes Andrew Natsios, former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). By contrast, faith-based organizations "have much more in common with the rest of the world and thus may understand ethnic and religious conflicts, political movements driven by religious devotion, and the way in which the religious mind functions, better than secularized foreign-policy practitioners."

(Jennifer A. Marshall. “Religious Liberty in America: An Idea Worth Sharing Through Public Diplomacy” The Heritage Foundation. Jan 15, 2009.

“When and how might religious freedom shape wider economic and social development? The scholarly literature suggests that religious freedom may promote economic development under some conditions through at least five causal pathways. In some of the pathways, which are enumerated below, there is a fairly direct relationship between religious freedom, on one hand, and economic freedom and prosperity, on the other. In others, there is an indirect relationship, which runs through a number of intervening variables, mechanisms, and processes.

(a)The Ideas Pathway: One way religious freedom fosters societal flourishing in its economic dimensions is the mechanism of religious ideas. Religious freedom makes it possible for religious ideas that promote economic development (as well as social and political development) to take hold and shape society for the better.

One form of this mechanism is relatively direct. Religious liberty allows various religious ideas to be propagated in society. To the extent that religious liberty permits certain religious ideas, values, or norms conducive to economic growth and political freedom to flourish, economic development and political democracy are likely to ensue. No work in the social science canon better represents the link between religious ideas and economic outcomes than Max Weber’s  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1992 [1904/1905]). A Calvinist ethical code that downplays consumption in favor of self-discipline and thrift allowed financial capital to pool in places heavily influenced by this theology, most notably northern Europe. A variant of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination argued that those favored by God would be favored in the present time with worldly success, thus providing people an incentive to work hard as a means of demonstrating they were among the elect. Moreover, according to eminent British historian H. R. Trevor Roper, a Calvinist ethos was most able to flourish in areas of northern Europe such as the Dutch Republic and England, which enjoyed higher levels of religious toleration (Trevor-Roper 1967). Environments of relative religious openness allowed the economically beneficial ideas of Calvinism to spread and exercise a significant societal influence.

However, does not religious liberty make it possible for all kinds of ideas to persist and spread and therefore potentially undermine societal flourishing? In one sense, yes. But the point is that it is only an environment of full religious security or full religious liberty that creates the kind of context in which a wide variety of religious ideas can be tried and tested for their societal consequences. Over the long run, the open and competitive social environment created by religious freedom enables ideas that are growth promoting and freedom promoting to be recognized and accepted as conducive to societal flourishing.  For example, according to Robert Woodberry’s research on religious competition between Protestant missionaries and other religious communities over the last two hundred years in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many non-Protestant groups over time learned to recognize some Protestant beliefs and practices as conducive to societal flourishing. These ideas included voluntarism (Woodberry 2012). Environments of relative religious liberty made it possible for Protestant ideas such as this to be introduced and to spread to many societies, and made it possible for non-Protestant groups to absorb and replicate them. The result of such freedom and inter-religious competition, over time, was that socially beneficial religious ideas became more and more widely accepted and practiced. The spread of these ideas, in turn, had a measurable impact on economic development, not to mention political democratization.

One way to describe this mechanism is that religious liberty fosters a variety of “natural experiments” or “social laboratories” that reveal the social effects of different religious ideas. Given enough time, this disclosure effect also serves to help some religious ideas win more adherents and social influence than others. Through a kind of sociological natural selection in which pro-developmental religious ideas gain acceptance and exercise widening social influence, while less socially beneficial ideas decline, religious liberty may enhance long-term economic prosperity and political freedom.

(b)The Skills Pathway: Religious groups often promote organizational and other economically and politically useful human capital skills among their members. The freer those religious groups are to pursue their activities, therefore, the more they will enhance the overall pool of human capital conducive to economic prosperity and political freedom.

Being religious is not solely a matter of holding religious ideas. Most religious traditions encourage communal activities that derive from religious ideas and doctrines (such as obedience to God, charity, virtue) but also require organization. People must hone leadership skills, find ways to coordinate their activities, develop interpersonal skills, and acquire self-discipline. Add to this a whole host of organizationally specific tasks such as bookkeeping, providing childcare, and even janitorial or landscaping services, and one quickly recognizes that religious organizations often serve as low-cost schools for individuals to develop economically and politically useful habits and skills.

To the extent that religious organizations rely on and train volunteers to perform these organizational tasks, religious adherents gain skills that are transferable to the secular economy and polity, possibly stimulating entrepreneurial activity, enhancing productivity, or fostering civic skills. For example, proselytizing religions often require a cadre of trained volunteers who are capable of “selling” (preaching) a “product” (a set of theological beliefs) to potential “consumers” (adherents). These interpersonal skills are potentially transferable to the secular worlds of commerce and politics. To the extent that religious liberty permits proselytizing, more missionaries will be trained and provided with essential human capital that will benefit the entire economy.

More importantly, attracting new believers requires making the proposed faith credible and attractive. Given that missionaries are trying to convince unaffiliated individuals to seek intangible spiritual goods, they often use tangible benefits to enhance their credibility. While the proffering of benefits can be exploitative, it can also generate positive economic results. Missionaries teach people a variety of skills —from reading to better farming techniques —as a means of building trust. To the extent that such skills develop human capital (or even physical capital) and are useful in promoting other economic activities, missionaries create important conditions for economic growth.

Woodberry’s (2012) landmark thesis on the relationship between “conversionary Protestants” and democratic development also demonstrates the logic and importance of causal pathways linking religious liberty, portable skills, and economic and political development (see also Gallego and Woodberry 2010). Woodberry calls attention to the vigorous efforts of Protestant missionaries to spread a variety of concrete skills, such as literacy, because reading the Bible was a main component of their theology of personal salvation. This also required the skills and technologies associated with mass printing. Gill (1998) noted a similar pattern in Latin America. As Protestants entered the region in the early to mid 1900s, they attracted members of the lower classes by offering a variety of educational opportunities (e.g., literacy training, communication skills) that were soon replicated by the Catholic Church in an attempt to retain the allegiance of a previously neglected population (another form of peaceful religious  competition). Elizabeth Brusco (1995) also found that the skills imparted to men by evangelical churches led to an almost immediate improvement in the financial situation of households. In a similar vein, Willems (1955) demonstrated how Protestants encouraged many Latin Americans to abandon counter-productive habits, while Shah and Shah (2010, 2013) more recently showed how evangelical values led to self-empowering economic behavior among the poor in India. Likewise Becker & Woessmann (2009) and Blum and Dudley (2001) argue that Weber’s “Protestant ethic” was based not so much on a shift in economic ethos or values as on the promotion of certain skills —literacy again being crucial —that built human capital and economic prosperity (cf. Woodberry 2012 and Woodberry and Shah 2004).

This relationship between religion and the development of civic and economic skills is closely connected to religious freedom. The more religious groups enjoy freedom to perform organizational and recruiting functions independently of control or financing by other institutions, particularly the state, the more they will depend on their own organizational capacity and a wide range of individual volunteers, who will in turn need to develop skills that are readily transferable to the economic and political realms.

(c)The Charity/NGO Pathway: Markets often misallocate resources and promote inequities that lead to social conflict and hence diminish the possibility for growth. When they enjoy religious freedom and security, private religious charities and NGOs can ameliorate these problems and alleviate poverty in a way that is more practical and efficient than government action alone. Religious charities may also serve as a more effective —if not the only effective —means of dealing with other social ills that diminish the possibility of economic development and societal flourishing (e.g. alcohol and drug abuse). Important among economically relevant social ills are those pertaining to the family. For example, in the U.S., there is significant evidence that children of single parents are far more likely to be poor than are children in married families (Haskins and Sawhill 2003).

Hunger, poverty, disease, crime, drug abuse, out of wedlock births, family  breakdown, poor educational systems, and other social maladies prevent numerous societies and billions of people from flourishing. In modern times, there have been two major means of dealing with these and other social problems: private organizations or government-organized social welfare. Historically, religious organizations have been instrumental in mobilizing and delivering private charity and other goods. Nearly every major religious tradition has some commandment to help those in need, usually through some form of charitable giving to the poor (Malloch 2009). The early Christians organized medical care for the needy, and orphanages and elder care were activities managed by churches or monasteries during the Middle Ages (Stark 1996). Today, religious groups and faith-centered NGOs provide an array of social services to those in need.

The links between religious liberty and economic development are straightforward. Private religious communities compete in a “charitable market” for donations and volunteers. Sometimes they mobilize their donations and volunteers to organize social services in a way that is more efficient than other entities, such as the state, or they provide services other institutions are unable or unwilling to provide. They also compete with secular ideas and organizations to define common moral and social norms. If greater religious liberty enhances the capacity of religious communities to organize and maintain private organizations and promote positive moral and social norms by reducing the political and social costs imposed on faith-based activity, society will benefit

Furthermore, to the extent that governments are less efficient or effective in meeting all or some social needs, affording the religious sector the freedom to meet these needs can lower the burden on government finances and promote economic development and overall societal flourishing. For example, to the extent that religious communities enjoy the cultural and political freedom to promote strong and stable marriages as well as remedy social ills such as alcoholism, this kind of exercise of religious liberty can have the effect of fostering the economic well-being of families as well as overall societal flourishing (Brusco 1995, Shah and Shah 2010).

Is there significant evidence that private religious organizations often address social and economic needs that would otherwise be unmet, or that they often address them more efficiently than do non-religious institutions? The literature on religious organizations and social welfare is extensive, with the bulk of it appearing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It demonstrates that religious charities provide an array of social services, including food banks, homeless shelters, education, emergency relief, financial assistance, and even banking services (cf. National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions 1997). Printz (1998) reports on a survey of 266 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C. area, which accounted for over 1,000 types of social services amounting to over $19 million in value.

Ample research demonstrating the magnitude and efficiency of faith-based social services can be found in Cnann, Wineburg, and Boddie (1999), Faver (1986), Johnson (2012), Mapes (2004), Hodgkinson, et al. (1993), Jackson et al. (1997), Monsma (2004), Monsma and Soper (2006), Netting (1984), Reese (2001), and Wineburg (1993). Recently, Davis and Robinson (2012) offered a global perspective on how religious groups provide social welfare by looking at cases within four faith traditions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sephardi Torah Guardians, Communion and Liberation, and the Salvation Army. Some of the literature suggests that religious NGOs sometimes address poverty, disease, and social inequality more effectively and efficiently than government entities (cf. Gugerty and Prakash 2001).

In order to demonstrate that there is a “charity/NGO pathway” linking religious freedom and economic development, however, it is not enough to demonstrate that faith-inspired charities and social services are effective. The second step is to point to evidence that religious freedom strengthens the ability of religious individuals and organizations to provide social services. That is, the less a society imposes restrictions on such activity, the more it will experience this activity and its beneficial consequences.

It turns out that this claim, too, finds widespread support in the literature. For example, Stephen Monsma (2012) has argued that hiring criteria that violate the principles of conscience of religious charities can dampen their effectiveness or compel them to stop offering certain services. Restricting what services religious charities can offer and where they can offer them also potentially limits their effectiveness.

(d)The Migration Pathway: Individuals with productive skills are attracted to regions that are marked by high levels of religious security or religious freedom. When they migrate, as they have throughout history and often do today, they bring human capital that is crucial for economic prosperity.

Human capital is the knowledge, training, and ingenuity that human beings possess, and it is a key ingredient in economic development (Becker 1994 [1964]). A society can build its human capital in two ways: it can invest in education, or it can attract individuals with desirable skills from elsewhere. Religious freedom contributes to the first route by making it possible for religious communities to organize educational programs and institutions, as we noted above in the “charity/NGO pathway.” But religious freedom also contributes to the second route by adding to the qualities that potential immigrants are likely to find attractive in a host country.

In other words, an environment of religious security or religious freedom can add to the incentives that draw people to one society rather than another. Such incentives may include higher living standards, greater economic opportunity, stability, and general conditions of political freedom, and the freedom to express one’s religious beliefs in private and public life. To the extent that intelligent, entrepreneurial, and hard-working individuals are drawn to a society and expand its productivity by making more efficient use of its resources, they will enhance economic development and growth. This is true not only in terms of attracting migrants to settle in a territory but also in attracting merchants with whom to trade.

William Penn and other advocates of religious freedom understood this logic as far back as the 17th century. Penn appealed to the King of England to allow religious freedom in Pennsylvania on economic grounds. Around the same time, the Netherlands increasingly realized that toleration of various sects, including Huguenots fleeing France, helped to generate a boom in trade, productivity, ingenuity, and overall economic prosperity (Owen 2010). Those who uproot themselves from their traditional homes and flee to a new region are often risk-taking individuals with significant material and intellectual resources —attributes useful for innovation and entrepreneurship. When the Dutch sailed to the New World, they brought with them the realization that religious liberty, migration, and trade were interconnected. The settlement of New Amsterdam in the American colonies was above all a commercial venture that came with it the explicit instruction that colonists not restrict the freedom of those with different faiths to practice their religion because it was understood that religious persecution would be bad for business and bad for settlement (Haefeli 2012; Smith 1973; Zwierlei 1910).

In fact, the empirical patterns underlying the best-known argument linking religion and economic development —Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” thesis noted above
—probably had more to do with the magnetic attraction of relative religious security or religious freedom than Calvinism. Based on a comparative analysis of numerous regions in early modern Europe, H. R. Trevor-Roper argued in a classic article on the Weber thesis that greater religious toleration was the core reason some Protestant regions of northern Europe surged ahead in terms of economic growth and trade. Why? It was because of their higher levels of religious security or greater religious toleration that these regions were able to welcome religiously diverse merchants and entrepreneurs —Calvinist, Jewish, Lutheran, and Catholic —fleeing Catholic areas such as Spain and Flanders that had become less tolerant and more socially rigid after the Counter-Reformation. According to Trevor-Roper, what was new in this era “lay not in the entrepreneurs themselves, but in the circumstances which drove them to emigrate” (Trevor-Roper 1967).

The connection between religious liberty and immigration was re-emphasized in later centuries as the need to attract labor in the latter half of the 19th century prompted greater toleration for both Catholics and Jews. As Chiswick (2008) notes, the religious freedom provided by America provided an attractive environment for many Jewish immigrants who subsequently went on to achieve great economic success. Gill (2008) demonstrates that a number of Latin American countries began to make the connection between religious tolerance, migration, and economic commerce, including the highly trade-dependent nation of Chile (Collier 1997). While not technically dealing with cross-border immigration, Koesel (2012) has observed that Chinese entrepreneurs are driven to opportunities affiliated with greater freedom of spiritual conscience.

In sum, the literature shows that the connection between religious liberty and economic development through the pathway of immigration is strong. Most societies that seek to be economically prosperous need skilled immigrants and brisk commerce. But the evidence suggests that societies lacking religious freedom will find it more difficult to attract either.

(e)The Networks Pathway: The freedom of religious groups encourages the formation of independent associations, networks, and social capital, which contributes to economic activity, an engaged citizenry, and autonomous organizations that can check the state and promote freedom.

In terms of political freedom and democracy, the freedom of religious association contributes to social capital and a higher density of groups in civil society, which reinforces both the functioning of democratic institutions and their legitimacy. Freely operating religious communities also often draw otherwise disenfranchised or voiceless groups into the political process, making the political system
more inclusive and responsive. As Verba, Schlozman, and Brady showed, involvement in certain kinds of churches plays a crucial role in giving Americans of low socio-economic status a sense of political efficacy and a strong impetus to civic participation (1995). Furthermore, religious individuals and communities operating freely in civil society limit the powers of government. Conversely, restrictions on freedom of religious association atomize and weaken civil society, leave state power unchecked, and weaken political legitimacy.

There is abundant historical and contemporary evidence that the freedom of religious communities to operate independently of civil authority gives them the capacity to challenge regimes that are lacking in freedom and to serve as the "leading edge" of historical change that brings about liberal democracy. Looking at the historical long haul, one could argue that the Church's demand for its institutional and associational autonomy —i.e., its freedom —under the Roman Empire created an independent sphere of civil society that paved the way for the separation of powers and for government authority to be accountable to a higher law, both essential features to modern liberal democracy (Garnett 2010). The emergence of religious freedom in Christian circles following the religious wars, especially in England and America, can also be seen as the "leading edge" of progress towards democratization that followed —in England in the 1688 Glorious Revolution and in the American Revolution, culminating in the Constitution of 1789. Following Emile Perreau-Saussine, the French Catholic Church's assertion of autonomy vis-à-vis the pope and its influence in creating a differentiated civil authority helped to further the evolution of a separation of powers (Perreau-Saussine 2012). Finally, in the third wave of democratization, religious actors who enjoyed a modicum of religious freedom under dictators and demanded expanded religious freedom were often pivotal in bringing down dictatorships and ushering in democracies (Philpott 2004, 2007).

In other words, there is evidence that beachheads of religious security and diversity laid the foundations for the development of other fundamental freedoms at a later point in time. And the key mechanism whereby this often occurs is through the formation of autonomous and sustainable religious networks and associations. As several different strands of research have suggested, there have been cases in which the autonomy, independence, and freedom of religious institutions at one point in time proved a beachhead from which these religious institutions successfully advocated for an expansion of other freedoms at a later point in time. Philpott and Shah (2006) and Toft, Philpott, and Shah(2011) analyze numerous Western and non-Western cases that suggest that where religious actors enjoy at least some institutional independence from political authorities and to that extent some measure of institutional religious freedom, these religious actors are more able and willing to undertake pro-democracy activism and work for wider fundamental political and economic freedoms in their national contexts, as well as political reconciliation, making the consolidation of stable democracy more likely.

In terms of economic development, the presence of vibrant religious communities in economic and civic life can limit the expansion of government and guard economic freedom. The freedom of religious association contributes to social capital in terms of social networks and social trust, which can facilitate economic exchange and reduce corruption, and, in turn, promote economic growth”

Timothy Samuel Shah, “In God’s Name: Politics, Religion, and Economic Development”, July 2013, Religious Freedom Project,

“Perhaps the most sophisticated of the various attempts to define toleration is due to Andrew Cohen. According to him: an act of toleration is an agent’s intentional and principled refraining from interfering with an opposed other (or their behaviour, etc.) in situations of diversity, where the agent believes she has the power to interfere. (Cohen 2004, p. 69)7

If the agent has not considered refraining from interference, or has considered it and does not intend to refrain from interference, then that agent’s action cannot be described as tolerant. Only inaction that is intended can count as toleration. The stipulation that a lack of interference must also be principled is included to rule out unprincipled non-interference, or interference that is explained by some motive that one did not endorse as a value. I might disapprove of an action and believe that it ought not to take place, but if I fail to act to try to stop it because I am merely lazy, then we would not describe my attitude as one of toleration (unless, perhaps, I endorse laziness as a value). My non-interference must be grounded on some sort of principle, although not necessarily a moral one, to count as tolerance.8

Non-interference is central to tolerance, but this should not be understood too broadly. The non-interference involved in toleration is directnon-interference in acts and practices. It need not imply indirect non-interference in acts and practices. A devout Catholic may decide to tolerate Protestant religious practices in her community and to not interfere in the conduct of Protestant religious services, despite her disapproval of these. However, she may feel that the attitude of tolerance that she displays does not extend to refraining from proselytizing on behalf of the Catholic Church to Protestants. She hopes to achieve the end of converting Protestants to Catholicism, causing inter alia, the cessation of Protestant religious practices, but takes the view that it would be wrong to do so by means other than by rational persuasion. The clause “situations of diversity” is included in the above definition of tolerance on the grounds that if there were no diversity between peoples, then there would be no differences between them to object to.9 Cohen includes the final clause “where the agent believes she has the power to interfere” to distinguish toleration from resignation.10 If we believe that we have no power to stop the objectionable practice or activity, then our attitude toward that activity is not one of tolerance but of resignation.

(Russell Powell, Steve Clark, “Religion, Tolerance, and Intolerance: Views from Across the Disciplines” Religion, Tolerance, and Conflict: A Scientific and Conceptual Investigation, 2013.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on religious freedom

"We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Virginia Baptists, 1808. ME 16:320

"Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to John Thomas et al., 1807. ME 16:291

"From the dissensions among Sects themselves arise necessarily a right of choosing and necessity of deliberating to which we will conform. But if we choose for ourselves, we must allow others to choose also, and so reciprocally, this establishes religious liberty." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:545

"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it... Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:429

"The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:98

"If a sect arises whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play and reasons and laughs it out of doors without suffering the State to be troubled with it." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:224

"If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:548

"Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth or permitted to the subject in the ordinary way cannot be forbidden to him for religious uses; and whatsoever is prejudicial to the Commonwealth in their ordinary uses and, therefore, prohibited by the laws, ought not to be permitted to churches in their sacred rites. For instance, it is unlawful in the ordinary course of things or in a private house to murder a child; it should not be permitted any sect then to sacrifice children. It is ordinarily lawful (or temporarily lawful) to kill calves or lambs; they may, therefore, be religiously sacrificed. But if the good of the State required a temporary suspension of killing lambs, as during a siege, sacrifices of them may then be rightfully suspended also. This is the true extent of toleration." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:547

 9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.
10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.
11 We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.
(D&C 134:9-11)

Book of Mormon scriptures about religious freedom (or lack thereof)

Alma 1:17 The law could have no power on any man for his belief
Alma 1:16-17  People punished for crimes they commit
Alma 1:32 Nehor followers indulge themselves, but the law is put into force on those who transgressed it
Alma 1:33 Exercising the law on every transgressor made the people “more still” so that “they durst not commit any wickedness if it were known; therefore, there was much peace among the people of Nephi”
Alma 2:4 People of the church were concerned that Amlici would take away the rights and privileges of the church
Alma 4:8-11  People of the church begin to persecute those who do not believe according to their own will and pleasure
Alma 8:11-12  Ammonihah declines to be persuaded by Alma’s spiritual authority
Alma 14:7-8  People of Ammonihah cast out some believers, burn others, and burn holy books, and imprison Alma and Amulek, abusing them for many days.
Alma 21:22  Lamoni declares religious liberty to worship God according to desire in his land.
Alma 23:1-3  Lamoni’s father makes proclamation to allow preachers to have free access to homes and synagogues to preach.  Also makes laws prohibiting physical restraint or abuse of preachers.
Alma 25:5-8  Descendants of Amulon cause many Lamanites to perish by fire because of their belief
Alma 30:9-11  Law only had power over a person to punish them for their crimes, not for their belief.
Alma 30:21 Korihor carried out of the lands of those who did not want to listen to him.
Alma 31:5 The preaching of the word had more powerful effect on the minds of the people than the sword or anything else that happened to them
Alma 35:6-10  Zoramite leaders cast out those who believe in Alma’s words.  Ammonites take in poor Zoramites, which makes rich Zoramites angry.  Rich Zoramites want Ammonites to cast out poor Zoramites too.  Ammonites refuse and help poor Zoramites. 
Helaman 3:33-34  Those who profess church membership are lifted up to pride and persecute many of their brethren
Helaman 7:4-5  Secret combinations destroy religious liberty by condemning the righteous because of their righteousness and letting the wicked go free for a price. 
Helaman 13:2 Samuel the Lamanite preaches and is cast out of the land
Helama 16:1-7  Samuel the Lamanite’s preaching on the wall meets a varied reception.  Some are convinced, some shoot projectiles at him, some ask authority figures to bind him and “away with him”
3 Nephi 1:9  Unbelievers set apart a day to kill believers if the sign of Christ’s birth isn’t manifest by then.
3 Nephi 6:20-24  Prophets executed in secret by elites.  Complaint made to the chief judge about executions being against the law.
3 Nephi 7:14  prophets stoned and cast out from the tribes of the people
4 Nephi 1:29-34  A church denies Christ, persecutes true church because of their humility and belief.  Despises them for miracles.  They exercise authority over the disciples of Christ, cast them into prison. 
Mormon 1:16-17 Mormon forbidden to preach to the people
Mormon 3:2-3 Mormon commanded by God to preach to the people.  The people refuse to listen, yet Mormon is not punished by the people.  (Perhaps because of his high status?)
Moroni 8:28  Mormon wrote to his son how people in his part of the land were seeking to put down all power and authority that comes from God
Moroni 9:5 Mormon wrote his preaching wasn’t having any effect.  Preaching with sharpness brought anger, and preaching without sharpness had no effect, as they hardened their hearts.

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