George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom

George Mason and Religious Liberty

George Mason

Portrait of George Mason (1725-1792) by John Hesselius in 1750

George Mason wrote and led the passage of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, which the colony adopted just two weeks before Congress declared American Independence. The Declaration is considered one of the most important constitutional documents in history. It begins by stating:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

The Virginia Declaration goes on to set forth many of the important principles that would shape American government and law for years to come, including: “…all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.”

For more information about George Mason and his thoughts on religious liberty, you can explore the following:

The Center for Civic Engagement
http://www.civiced.org/resources/curriculum/mason

Gunston Hall, The Home of George Mason
http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/essays/dreisbach_essay.html

Encyclopedia Virginia
http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Mason_George_1725-1792

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