Freedom Of Religion In Colonial America

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Religion was a large part of North Americans’ lives during colonial times. Many different groups moved to North America to escape religious persecution in their home countries. However, “freedom of religion” did not always exist in the present-day United States. While many groups came to North America to escape religious persecution, they only wanted the freedom to practice their own religion and did not necessarily want everyone to be able to practice their own religion. Until the Bill of Rights was introduced, people were routinely discriminated based on their religion and they could be excluded or denied certain rights if they practice a religion other than the dominant religion where they lived (Schaller, Schulzinger, Bezis-Selfa, Greenwood, …show more content…
Emigrants were recruited with a promised opportunity to create “godly communities in America” (Schaller, et al., 61). The first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was John Winthrop, who announced the principles that the colonists would have to live by. The Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony believed that they had entered into a covenant with God and that they had to convey their faith through actions. Winthrop believed that if their faith stayed strong and if they honored their word to one another, other colonies would want to follow them. The Massachusetts Bay colonists believed that God had designated certain people for salvation and that these people deeply believed in God and acted upon their faith. They developed a “conversion test” in which “[p]rospective members had to appear before those already deemed elect, testify to their relationship with God, and offer proof that God had saved them” (Schaller, et al., 62). Members of the church judged these prospective members and decided whether or not they would be allowed admission. This conversion test allowed for systematic discrimination of those who were not members of the church; only members of the church could vote or hold office. Additionally, the strong religious faith of the Massachusetts Bay colonists caused them to be highly educated. Almost everyone knew how to read so that they could read the Bible. Reformers …show more content…
At the start of the war, New England orthodox leaders “rejoiced that their vision of a godly society might be transplanted to England” (Schaller, et al., 78). They had hope that the possible transfer of power from the monarchy to Parliament would also accompany a change in official state religion, because English reformers sought an alternative religion to Anglicanism. From 1641 to 1643, to persuade the English that Puritan life was appealing, printers in London published at least 20 favorable works about New England; most recommended the religious life there. Unfortunately, in 1644, Roger Williams and other published accounts claiming that all New England colonies, with the exception of Rhode Island, regularly persecuted religious dissenters. In 1649, Puritan general Oliver Cromwell staged a military coup in England and appointed himself Lord Protector. Puritans in North America were hopeful that England would become the Puritan society they had always wanted it to be. However, Cromwell formally acknowledged that the Church of England was the state religion, so this “godly society” remained in the colonies (Schaller, et al.,

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