Religious Freedom in the American Colonies Prior to the 1700s
The first amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens their right to practice any religion they wish without persecution today, but many years ago when this country was made up of only 13 colonies on the east coast, that was often times not the case. It’s surprising how many were not tolerant of religions different from their own because the main reason why people fled to America was to escape religious persecution. In Britain, the Anglican Church ruled over the country as there was no separation of church and state. Anyone who believed different from the Church was punished severely, so many traveled to America to seek refuge. Colonies were established with the intent of religious freedom, but many strayed away from that goal. The amount of tolerance varied throughout the three different sections of the American Colonies. New England had the least amount of religious freedom, the Middle Colonies had the most, and the South was in between; less than the Middle Colonies, but more than New England.
The majority of people who settled in the New England area were Puritans. The first colony started by them was Plymouth Colony, and they attempted to live without discriminating against non-Puritans who settled there. However, although Puritans were one of the most heavily persecuted religious groups in England, when they came to the colonies they were not tolerant at all of others. They followed England’s way of combining church and state so their government was set up around the Puritan Church. It was believed to be the government’s duty to carry out God’s law. Puritans held to the belief that salvation was not intended by God to be for everyone, and not everyone could belong with them. Non-Puritans did not have the right to vote because they were not a member of the church, but they were still obligated to pay taxes to uphold the tax-supported Congregational Church. Quakers faced...
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