The power and the limitations of the civil magistrate regarding the religious belief constitute the nodal points of the controversy which has developed in the protestant field between the different interpretations of the Reform regarding the application of the death penalty for the heretics. The trial of Michael Servetus, an anti-Trinitarian physician, analysed in its critical procedural points in Sébastien Castellion’s works, constitutes the main act of accusation against Calvin and Theodore Beza and the first explicit statement of the illegitimacy of the death penalty, from a legal point of view. The defence of the autonomy of man in the religious field from the political and religious jurisdiction constitutes the first statement of the values of dignity and freedom of the individual against the authority and it allows to draw a new layout of the relations between law and religion, which is different from the one known until that era in Europe, and that will find its fullest expression in the ideas of the Enlightenment and in the assertion of the secularization of the political orders for the protection of the pluralism of the values and rights of freedom.


Keywords: The powers and the limitations of the civil magistrate in the field of religious belief; Freedom of conscience; Illegitimacy of the death penalty.