While in Virginia, Baptist pastor John Leland was a neighbor to James Madison. The two men often talked about the state of the nation and of the Word of God. Leland once wrote, “Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for, is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposed that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence.” Apparently this kind of thinking was driven by the Baptist into the heart of his Protestant friend.
It is perhaps surprising that in the same British colony and American state where for years religious liberty could not be found, there it first began to blossom most brightly. The words of the Virginia Declaration of Rights were incorporated into the Federal Bill of Rights and began with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
It was on this day in 1789, after only seven or eight days of debate, the final draft of Madison’s amendments to the Constitution were passed by Congress and presented to the states for approval.