Religion and Government
The religious beliefs of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have persistently been a major talking point in this Presidential campaign. Some Christians do not consider Romney’s Mormon faith to be truly Christian. Although Obama’s beliefs should be popular among American Protestants, a surprising number of them believe that he is secretly a Muslim, as they also believe he was really not born in the US. As usual, the media obsessively focuses on personal details rather than substantive issues. More important to this election are the parties’ views about the ideal relationship between religion and government.
Since the European settlement of New England in the 17th century, two opposing ideas about government and religion have existed in America. The Puritans fled religious persecution in England. In Massachusetts Bay Colony, they created one of the earliest protections of individual rights in America, the Body of Liberties, which includes freedom of speech, and the right to bail and a jury trial.
But they also retained the European belief that citizenship should be based on religion, that the state should enforce religious purity. Only men could vote who had been examined for their religious views. Christian ideas which did not conform to Puritan theology, as enunciated by their political leaders, were not tolerated. So-called “heretics” were fined, whipped, imprisoned, banished, or executed. Four Quakers were condemned and hanged in 1659-61. Slavery existed in Massachusetts and some of the governors owned slaves.
One of those who was forced to leave was Roger Williams. He argued that the Puritans’ charter from the King was invalid, because they did not pay the Native Americans for the land they took. Escaping imprisonment, he walked 100 miles south to present-day Rhode Island in the winter of 1636, purchased land from the Narragansett tribe, and founded a new settlement called Providence Plantation.
Williams regarded any promotion by the state of religious ideas or practices as “forced worship”, which “stinks in the nostrils of God”. Williams invented the idea of a “wall of separation” between church and state to describe his vision of religious liberty.
Categories: Blog Post
. Tags: American Protestants
, Providence Plantation
, Roger Williams
, and wall of separation between church and state
. Topics: Church History
, Ethical Issues
, Gender and Sexuality
, Interfaith Issues & Dialogue
, Political Concerns
, The Younger Generation
, and Theology & Religious Education
. 8 Points: Point 2: Pluralism
, Point 3: Inclusive Community
, Point 4: Act As We Believe
, Point 5: Non-Dogmatic Searchers
, and Point 6: Peace and Justice