Indeed, it wasn't just Jefferson and Madison who were discussing the bounds of religious freedom in the crucial Virginia debate, said historian John Ragosta, author of numerous books on Jefferson and religious freedom.
"Baptists and Presbyterians were really demanding religious freedom in the 18th century because they were dissenters from the established church," Ragosta said. "And they were talking about Muslims and ‘infidels’ and Jews."
Evangelicals had been subjected to religious persecution not long before. Prior to the American Revolution, more than half of Virginia's Baptist ministers were jailed for preaching, Ragosta said. "These people knew what they were talking about."
Opponents of Jefferson's proposal wrote letters to the Virginia Gazette, arguing that it would allow atheists, Muslims and Jews to hold office — to which evangelicals responded, “that’s right,” Ragosta said.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Washington Post: "The fascinating history of how Jefferson and other Founding Fathers defended Muslim rights"
Check it out here. A taste: