The Religion Guarantees: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

By Peter K. Rofes | Go to book overview

peting impulses would tug at colonists from well before the initial musings of what would later become the First Amendment’s religious freedoms to well after these freedoms had found their place in the Constitution.

The struggle to separate religion from government in colonial America by and large represented an unprecedented effort. The effort engendered intensive debate and, over time, surprising success. Colonial proponents of religious freedom garnered much of their success as a result of the confluence of three distinct phenomena at work in their time: discriminatory treatment doled out to those individuals who did not belong to the particular established religions; taxation to support those established religions; and the link between established religions and English control. The discussion set forth below seeks to capture the climate that prompted the move toward the First Amendment’s protections for religious freedom, the debate concerning those protections as it evolved from the First Constitutional Convention through the First Congress, and, finally, the postenactment response to the Constitution among the colonists.


COLONIAL ROOTS OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: DISENTANGLING
CROSS AND CROWN

Michael Ariens and Robert Destro—in their fine work, Religious Liberty in a Pluralistic Society (1996)—have observed that the particular ingredients in the mix of church and state varied substantially from colony to colony, that the distinctive experience and conditions of each particular colony combined to produce a distinctive set of relationships among government, religion, and inhabitants. For that reason, as Ariens and Destro observe, a geographic tour through the colonies offers a glimpse into each distinctive mix.


New England

Massachusetts

Pilgrims and Puritans—two dissenting groups from the Church of England— founded the Massachusetts colony. Pilgrims disapproved of the resemblance the established Church of England bore to the Roman Catholic Church. They met with persecution in England after their formal separation from the Church of England,1 prompting them to flee—initially to the Netherlands and then, after King James I of England awarded them a charter in 1620 to settle in what we now know as Virginia,2 to the colonies. Landing instead at Plymouth Rock—as Ariens and Destro note, well north of their intended destination—the Pilgrims eventually settled in colonial Massachusetts.3 Despite their status as the first English inhabitants of the colony, the Pilgrims exerted only modest influence in Massachusetts, a fact stemming from both their limited number and the lack of a charter for the area.4

The more influential Puritans arrived a decade later, in 1630, with a royal charter from King Charles I to form the Massachusetts Bay Colony.’ They neither fled persecution nor formally separated from England’s established church. In-

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The Religion Guarantees: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - The Origins of the Religion Guarantees 1
  • 2 - The Anti-Establishment Guarantee 29
  • 3 - The Free Exercise Guarantee 123
  • Bibliographic Essay 183
  • Table of Cases 201
  • Index 205
  • About the Author 213
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