Christian Persecution and the Origins of Religious Freedom

Tertullian "asserted that it is a 'fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions.' He was the first to argue for religious toleration as a general principle and, in so doing, coined the phrase 'freedom of religion' (libertas religionis)." - IFWE

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Tertullian went on to explain that genuine faith is freely held, not coerced. To be authentic, one’s devotion and duty to God must be voluntary:

[T]he injustice of forcing men of free will to offer sacrifice against their will is readily apparent, for . . . a willing mind is required for discharging one’s reli­gious obligations. It certainly would be considered absurd were one man compelled by another to honor gods whom he ought to honor of his own accord and for his own sake.

Tertullian thus opposed state coercion of religious faith not because it is ineffective but because it is contrary to the ways of God and the character of true religion.