On March 8, 1993, a committee of the Maryland Senate held a hear, ing on a bill that would compel public-school teachers and principals to "require all students to be present and participate in opening exercises on each morning of a school day and, voluntary . . . to meditate and pray silently." I presented testimony against this bill (for reasons which I will return to later) on behalf of organizations dedicated to defending freedom of religion.
Some people would undoubtedly say that I testified on behalf of freedom from religion, not freedom of religion. They would probably argue that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion, that the former but not the latter is a fundamental right. On the other hand, some secularists who object to certain public manifestations of traditional religion might express a mirror-image viewpoint--that freedom of religion is not enough and that freedom from religion is a right that should be specifically protected.
It seems to me that freedom of and freedom from religion cannot and should not be distinguished. Let me explain.
Puritans and pilgrims were Protestants who immigrated to New England largely because they desired freedom from the Anglican establishment in England. (They disliked Anglicanism because it was, to them, too much like Roman Catholicism.) So, too, Roger Williams and his followers set up shop in Rhode Island because they sought freedom from the Puritan establishment in Massachusetts. Sephardic Jews settled in Rhode Island to escape various European religious establishments. Anglicans and Baptists in Connecticut opposed that colony's Puritan establishment.
English Catholics settled Maryland to get away from Protestant establishments in their home country, while French Protestants came here to escape the Catholic establishment in France. Many British Anglicans came to Virginia and the Carolinas because they did not like Cromwell's Puritan establishment, while Quakers settled in Pennsylvania to avoid impositions on their freedom in England. In 1825, a boatload of Norwegians--many of them Quakers --arrived here for freedom from the Lutheran establishment in their land. In short, many of the early immigrants came here for freedom of religion, which was, to them, …