UU Minute #20

The Edict of Torda

“...in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearing is by the word of God.” (Edict of Torda, 1568)
The Edict of Torda, named for the Transylvanian town where it was adopted in 1568, gave state sanction to four religions: Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian. A congregation that was one of those variants of Christianity could not be persecuted, and could freely elect its preacher.

Queen Isabella had made the first move toward religious toleration about a decade before. In 1557, she decreed that Catholic and Lutheran would each be recognized and allowed. A bit later, Calvinism had been recognized.

King John Sigismund’s court preacher, Ferenc David, and his counselor and physician, Giorgio Biandrata, together launched a series of publications and took part in public debates about religion, each lasting from several days to over a week. David and Biandrata interwove arguments for a Unitarian theology and arguments for religious tolerance – and persuaded the King himself. It was David who was the powerful and passionate voice in Torda in 1568 calling on the delegates to adopt the edict that he brought before them.

In the centuries after Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation, all of Europe was embroiled in religious conflict – often violent. When every other leader in Europe was choosing a side and seeking by force to impose it throughout their realm – under the assumption that a populace that shared a government must also share a religion -- Transylvania alone had the wildly radical notion of religious freedom -- of using the powers of the state not to promote the state’s preferred religion, but to protect multiple religions.

NEXT: The Connection: Reason

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