If you've ever toured Monticello, then you know that Thomas Jefferson had very strong opinions about what his legacy should be. He wanted to be remembered as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and as the "father" of the University of Virginia. Both are inscribed on his tombstone, along with his second proudest achievement--authoring the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.
....what Jefferson wrote in Fredericksburg some 230 years ago was such a groundbreaking defense of freedom that the men who drafted our Constitution relied on it for the framework of the First Amendment. "No nation," the third President said years later, "has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be." Thomas Jefferson understood then, as we do now, that religious freedom is fundamental to every other freedom on earth. Maybe that's why, despite all of his other accomplishments, Jefferson considered the statute one of his greatest legislative feats.