National Religious Freedom Celebration at James Madison’s Montpelier

James Madison’s Montpelier welcomes visitors back after our annual January closure with a variety of tours and special programming during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend  on January 13th, 14th, and 15th.

James Madison, the principal architect of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, shaped the development of religious freedom in the United States more than any other individual. Today, religious freedom remains a cornerstone of American democracy. Rediscover the importance of liberty of conscience and how Madison’s convictions shaped the course of religious freedom in Virginia, the nation, and the world. 

On January 13th, John Ragosta and Dan Carlton will be hosting the lecture “Conviction & Conscience: James Madison and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom” at 1:00pm in Montpelier’s David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center, Grand Salon. This lecture is free; however, registration is required at The lecture can be paired with a $20 Exclusive “Conviction and Conscience” house tour, exploring how and why James Madison’s convictions led him to pursue the establishment of religious liberty in this nation.

John Ragosta, historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, shines a light on Madison’s contributions as he discusses the development of religious freedom in Virginia and the United States. Dan Carlton, pastor of Culpeper Baptist Church, discusses the role and legacies of dissenting Baptist ministers in Culpeper, Virginia, in the national story of religious freedom. Many scholars believe that their persecution propelled Madison into his lifelong career in politics and pursuit of religious freedom. 

During MLK Jr. Weekend, Montpelier will be offering the “Highlights of Montpelier Tour” (January 13-15, hourly between 10:00am. – 3:00pm.) On this tour, explore the histories and legacies of James and Dolley Madison, the Enslaved Community, and the Constitution as you journey through the landscape and inside the Madisons’ home. Tickets can be purchased at  Montpelier is also pleased to offer the “Journey from Slavery to Freedom Tour” (January 14-15, 11:30am), a walking and driving tour that visits historic sites near the mansion as well as the Gilmore Cabin and 1910 Train Depot. Guests will learn how citizenship in American evolved through Emancipation, Reconstruction, Segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Tickets can be purchased at Finally, visitors have the opportunity to take the “Enslaved Community” tour (January 13-15, 1:30pm). Visit the sites where multiple generations of Montpelier’s enslaved community lived, loved, and labored, and learn about the varied experiences of those individuals who endured a lifetime of denied humanity. This tour is free with the purchase of a tour ticket or a property pass.