Friday, February 20, 2015
Persecution in the Colonies
While many Christians escaped persecution by coming to America, some Christian groups faced persecution in the colonies as well. Here are some instances of that persecution.
In Jamestown, America's first permanent English settlement, people were required to attend the Anglican Church (the church of England) regularly. Later in Virginia, taxes were paid to the church and Sunday laws required attendance at least once a month.
Many denominations got around that law by meeting three times a month at their own church and going to the Anglican Church once a month, but some felt they were denying Christ by compromising their beliefs to go to a church they didn't agree with. The punishment was normally a hefty fine.
In 1643, Virginia enacted a law which stated that only those were permitted to preach and teach, publicly or privately, whose beliefs conformed to those of the Church of England. This meant that any church meetings held by Quakers, Baptists, or other denominations were considered illegal.
It was worse for those who were considered to have blasphemed the name of God. The punishment for that crime was imprisonment or death.
The Puritans who established settlements in Massachusetts also persecuted those who disagreed with them. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were among those who were banished and formed settlements in other colonies.
Quakers received the most severe persecution in the colonies. My ancestors, the Willis' and the Brinton's were among the Quakers who came to America to escape persecution only to have their lands ceased and be imprisoned in the colonies.
As more settlers of different denominations and religions came to America, tolerance of the different beliefs became more prevalent. By the Revolutionary War, many of our founding fathers believed in the principle of religious tolerance. Men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson enacted laws and the first amendment of the Constitution to prevent an establishment of any religion so that all denominations and religions had freedom to practice their beliefs in the public area. Unfortunately, a false interpretation of that amendment is now being used to stop Christians from practicing their beliefs in public, and a new religious intolerance is sweeping America.