High School

Early Americans Supported Religious Tolerance Based on God as Judge of Conscience

November 9, 2017
The Founding

In the 1600s, when American colonizers Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, and William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, began to advocate for greater freedom of conscience/belief and religious tolerance, they drew from the Scriptures (many of the same verses as the protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin) to support God as judge of conscience.

Williams and Penn asserted that God alone—not any human or earthly authority—is the judge of a person’s conscience, and God does not give this authority to any other person or power.  Referring to Psalms 2:9 and Acts 2:36, Williams asserts in his 1644 The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience that “God anointed Jesus to be the sole King and Governor of all the Israel [people] of God in spiritual and soul causes.”  Penn similarly argued in his 1670 A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended that religious coercion usurps God’s “incommunicable right of government over conscience.”  Also, in Matthew 22:21, when the Pharisees ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to the Romans, Jesus asks them, “Whose face is on your coins?”  “Caesar’s,” they say.  Jesus responds, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Penn concludes from Matthew that God “has reserved to himself that empire [of conscience] from all the Caesars on earth” and “no man is so accountable to his fellow creatures.”

The Tribute Money, Later Composition, by Titian, c1560-8.  Portrays Matthew 22:21.

The Bible, as Williams and Penn (like the reformers) saw, clearly indicates a distinction between civil government and God’s heavenly or spiritual government.  Civil powers have authority over earthly matters to maintain order and peace, but only God can discern and judge people’s consciences.  As a result, earthly authorities or laws that violate conscience are illegitimate.

The distinction between earthly and heavenly jurisdictions is, in fact, affirmed in the Bible on several occasions when God’s followers are supernaturally delivered from the earthly punishments assigned to them for peacefully practicing or preaching their faith.  For example…

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

—–

Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments, motives, and actions of Roger Williams and William Penn who founded the religously tolerant colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Suggested Readings:
1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections Introduction to 4.15.
2) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
3) Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, 1644.  Google Books.
4) William Penn, A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity, 1670.  Google Books.
5) Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Activity:  Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, discuss in small groups/whole class (with chairs in a circle, if possible) the questions below.  In writing on these questions, students may use more informal journaling/reflective writing.  Students may use this activity or parts of it as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same questions below.  (These and other questions are also found in Chapter 4 of Miracle of America text/sourcebook, p. 125.):

1.  How did the beliefs of Williams and Penn differ from those of the Puritans?  How were they similar?
2.  How do the experiences of Williams and Penn influence your own views about religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
3.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Williams and Penn to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience?
4.  Why do you think Williams and Penn based their arguments against religious intolerance and coercion largely on the Bible and Christian principles?
5.  Why is it important for people to have freedom of conscience and to be tolerant toward other people’s religious beliefs?

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

The First Thanksgiving in America

November 2, 2017
The Founding

When the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower and landed in America in the fall of 1620, they faced many challenges.  The winter climate was harsh, and many suffered sickness and disease.  Food and shelter were hard to obtain, especially in their weak condition.  The Pilgrims experienced hunger and starvation during this time, which they called “the starving time.”  In the harsh environment, half of the Pilgrims died during the first winter of their arrival.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum

After the winter, conditions began to improve and food was easier to obtain.  With the help of the local Native Americans, the Pilgrims planted much corn.  However, drought threatened to destroy their crops and their survival.  In response, the Pilgrims arranged a public day of Fasting and Prayer to beseech God for mercy and rain and, as Pilgrim Edward Winslow expressed in his Journal, “to humble ourselves together before the Lord.”  On an appointed day, everyone gathered together, fasted, and prayed.  The next day it rained, and the crops and harvest were saved.  The Pilgrims considered the event to be a direct provision from God.  The natives observed these events in astonishment.  Also, about that time, the Pilgrims received word that supplies were headed their way.  Rejoicing, they attributed the rain, plentiful harvest, and additional supplies to God and His providence.

In response, the Pilgrims held a public day of Thanksgiving to God for His provision and blessings.  Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow described this day in their Journal as one in which they “returned glory, honor, and praise with all thankfulness to our good God who deals so graciously with us.”  In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their abundance of autumn harvest and fowl with a feast and invited their native friends to join them in celebration.  “Instead of famine we had plenty,” recounts Bradford, “and the face of things was changed to the joy of our hearts.  Nor has there been any general want of food among us since to this day.”  The Pilgrims overcame famine, and Plymouth Colony survived.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading:  Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England, edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Chapter 16, pp. 274-288.  Google Books.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Related Blog:  The Pilgrims Persevered in Adversity 

—–

Activity Option A:  America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty (MS Edition), The History of Thanksgiving Day Unit, pp. 95-99.  ES-MS.

The History of Thanksgiving Day….

Purpose:  The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about the origins of Thanksgiving and the roles of Presidents Washington and Lincoln in making it a national holiday.

Suggested Readings:  “The History of Thanksgiving Day” unit reading/handout in America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty, Thanksgiving Unit, pp. 97-98.

Activity:  1)  Have students read “The History of Thanksgiving Day” individually or in groups and complete the vocabulary and questions.  (See Resources and Links pages on americanheritage.org for additional resources on Thanksgiving and its history.) 
2)
  Have students work in groups to plan their own Thanksgiving celebration.  When planning the food, students should include foods native to America (corn, potatoes, etc.) and foods eaten by their own families and cultures at Thanksgiving.  Students should include the way they they will “give thanks” in their celebration.  When they are finished planning, students present their plan to the class.  You may have groups or the class as a whole bring their selected foods and have them participate in their own Thanksgiving celebration.

Closure:  Discuss with students the differences between the historic celebration and the contemporary (modern or their own) celebration of Thanksgiving using the T-Chart worksheet as an overhead transparency or as a handout/worksheet.


Activity Option B:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 2, Part 3, Activity 7:  The History of Thanksgiving Day in America, pp. 93-94, 318-319.  MS-HS.

The History of Thanksgiving Day in America…

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the practice, purpose, and significance of Thanksgiving Day to Americans through history as well as the prevalent American beliefs and values that shaped this national holiday.

Suggested Readings:  1) Chapter 2 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections 2.2, 2.7, 2.8, and “The History of Thanksgiving Day” pp. 238-239 in the text.
2) William Bradford and Edward Winslow, letter on First Thanksgiving and Chapter 16, pp. 274-288, “The First Fast Day and Thanksgiving” in Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England.  Edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Activity:  Read and Respond with Short Answer Paragraphs.  Teacher delivers content on Thanksgiving.  Students read chapter 16 on “The First Fast Day and Thanksgiving” in Bradford and Winslow’s Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.  They should also read “The History of Thanksgiving Day” in Chapter 7 of Miracle of America text, pp. 238-239.  Teacher may print the Miracle reading excerpt/handout for the class or display it on an overhead projector.  From the readings, students analyze different historical passages that reveal the purpose, motive, and significance of Thanksgiving Day to Americans through history.  They write short paragraph answers to the following questions and discuss as a class:

1.  What was the original purpose for Thanksgiving?  What has been the purpose of Thanksgiving throughout United States’ history?
2.  How did the religious beliefs and values of the people of various times in history influence the purpose and significance of Thanksgiving Day?
3.  What worldview, religious beliefs, and values are revealed in the content of the official Thanksgiving proclamation passages in history?  What do these passages tell you about the prevalent worldview, beliefs, and/or values of the people of those times?
4.  Why do you think it is important to recognize Thanksgiving Day in our heritage and in our lives today?  What might be some benefits of Thanksgiving to all Americans of different or various beliefs?

—–

To download these whole units, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of these resources with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

The Pilgrims Persevered in Adversity

October 26, 2017
The Founding

When the Pilgrims arrived in America and landed at Plymouth in 1620, they faced overwhelming problems and challenges.  The Pilgrims lacked food, clothing, supplies, and shelter.  In addition, they experienced a harsh winter climate and poor soil, which made hunting and farming very difficult.  They also initially had a communal system of food distribution that stifled motivation to work, and visitors to the colony burdened supplies even further.  They suffered from starvation, sickness, and death.  Only half of them survived the cold winter and “starving time.”

Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by N. Currier, 1820

In the spring, however, the Pilgrims’ condition notably improved.  Though diminished in number, they forged a relationship with friendly natives who taught them how to plant crops.  They were allowed to farm their own land for their own sustenance.  They also enjoyed beneficial weather.  Thus, they reaped a great harvest.  In addition, more supplies were finally brought to the colony.  Ultimately, Plymouth Colony survived.

In recounting their days of trial during that first winter, Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow share in their Journal that God’s Word and the Pilgrims’ faith comforted, encouraged, and strengthened them to press on during their trial and to trust in God’s deliverance and provision.

Bradford and Winslow identified the Pilgrims and their difficult experience with the ancient Israelites in the Bible who were led by God out of Egypt, through a desert wilderness, and into the promised land of Canaan.  Though God similarly led the Pilgrims through a trying wilderness, His grace “suffered them not to distrust Him or repine.”  Like the Israelites, the Pilgrims’ were ultimately delivered to their promised land of America.  Citing Isaiah 58:12, they observed that God “built up by all this discipline, a hardy and cheerful piety, and a strong enduring faith; fixtures of character requisite for those who were ‘to raise up the foundations of many generations.’”  Through their faith and trust in God, the Pilgrims persevered through extreme adversity and became key figures who laid the groundwork for a new nation and new life for many generations to come.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading:  Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England, edited/reprinted by George B. Cheever.  Chapter 16, pp. 274-288.  Google Books.  Also known as “Mourt’s Relation.”

Related Blog:  The First Thanksgiving in America

—–

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 2, Part 3, Activity 3:  Persevering in Adversity, pp. 91-92, 94.  MS-HS.

Persevering in Adversity… 

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Philosopher John Locke and His Support for Religious Tolerance

October 19, 2017
The Founding

British Enlightenment philosopher, physician, and civil servant John Locke—later influential to the American Founders and the Declaration of Independence—was a relatively early proponent of religious tolerance and freedom of belief.  While known as a secular thinker of the Enlightenment era, Locke asserted a remarkably similar, Bible-based position as American colonizers Roger Williams, who wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience in 1644, and William Penn, who wrote The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity in 1670, on the issues of freedom of belief and religious tolerance.

Portrait of John Locke by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1697

Locke, who attended Oxford University in England, favored the use of man’s reason to search for and understand truth in life and society.  This rational search was, he believed, part of man’s God-given purpose.  His sensible views may have influenced his support for tolerance as necessary in man’s search for truth.

In 1669, Locke wrote the constitution for the colony of Carolina in America which notably allowed for freedom of belief despite having an official state church.  Carolina’s state church was more tolerant than those in other colonies like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia.  Alongside the tolerant colonies of Rhode Island (founded by Roger Williams in 1643), Maryland (founded by George and Cecil Calvert in 1634), and Pennsylvania (founded by William Penn in 1681); Carolina demonstrated a more moderate but important move toward tolerance in early America.

A Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689, by John Locke

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation and religious persecution in England and Europe, Locke wrote a series of letters supporting toleration—his 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration, 1690 Second Letter Concerning Toleration, and 1692 Third Letter Concerning Toleration—in defense of religious tolerance from a Bible-based viewpoint.  He argued that freedom of belief was a God-given, natural right and that regulation of religion should be outside the realm of civil government.  Since only God can ascertain religious truth and judge a person’s faith, government’s imposition on religious belief and practice is unauthorized and ineffective.  Moreover, freedom is the only means by which people can arrive at genuine Christian faith.  Locke notably believed that truth—in his mind, the Christian Gospel—can prevail amidst other ideas.  In his 1707 Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, he defended tolerance as an aspect of Christian charity or love.  In his 1695 The Reasonableness of Christianity, he argued that the teachings of Christianity are compatible with reason.

Locke’s Bible-based writings on freedom of belief and religious tolerance, so reminiscent of Williams and Penn, influenced the views of many in England and colonial America.  His first Letter likely influenced the English Toleration Act of 1689 which gave freedom of worship to Protestant non-conformists who dissented from the Church of England yet pledged allegiance to Britain.  Locke’s first Letter was also studied by many American Founders and informed their approach to and support for religious freedom in the new nation of the United States.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

—–

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 2 of 2, Activity 7:  A Closer Look at Locke, p. 147-8.  MS-HS.

A Closer Look at Locke… 

Purpose/Objective:  Students learn about the arguments & works of John Locke who influenced the tolerant colony of Carolina and the views/arguments of the American Founders in support of religious freedom in the United States.

Suggested Readings:  1) Chapter 4 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.  Students read sections 4.1, 4.5, 4.6, 4.8, 4.10, 4.12, 4.15, 4.18.
2) Letters Concerning Toleration by John Locke (three letters).
3) Paper/handout titled Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath (AHEF).  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.
4) Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Activity:  1) Text Analysis.  Students read selected excerpt(s) from Miracle of America text and Locke’s Letters Concerning Toleration.  Students working individually or in pairs, recap in writing the main ideas and Biblical references in the selections.  They may use an outline format, two-column notes, or graphic organizer as needed/directed.  The teacher may prepare students for the reading with a review of vocabulary/terms in reading.  As an alternative, additional text analysis, have students rephrase and discuss two or more quotes from Locke.  For example:

“The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force.  True and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.  Such is the nature of understanding, that it cannot be compelled by outward force.”

2) Short Paragraph Test.  Students think about, write on, and/or discuss the following questions below in small groups/whole class.  Students may use this activity as test preparation for a short-answer test on the same or similar questions:
a.  What main points from the Bible and other sources were used by Locke to argue against religious coercion and in support of religious tolerance and freedom of belief?
b.  How does Locke argue that religious coercion opposes reason?

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

William Penn and His “Holy Experiment” in Religious Tolerance, the Colony of Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017
The Founding

William Penn was one of America’s most notable advocates and movers for religious freedom.  Penn believed everyone had the God-given right to choose what to believe and how to peaceably worship.  As a Quaker in England who believed in the “Inner Light of Christ” and criticized formal external religion, Penn was expelled from the Church of England.  He was sent to France by his father to shake his non-conformist views but there, studying among persecuted Huguenots (or French Protestants), became a stronger dissenter.  Penn traveled Europe visiting Quakers and met philosopher John Locke.  When non-conformists were persecuted in Britain, he became an advocate for religious freedom and was imprisoned.  He corresponded with Roger Williams of Rhode Island and protested to colonial authorities when Quakers in Massachusetts were mistreated.

William Penn

In 1670, Penn wrote A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity in support of freedom of belief and against religious coercion and persecution as violating the Bible and human rights.  Some of Penn’s views reflected those of Martin Luther and Roger Williams.  Penn argued that coercion discredits the honor of God, the meekness of the Christian religion, the authority of Scripture, the privilege of nature, the principles of common reason, the well-being of government and society, and the teachings of wise men in historical and modern times.  One early historian called Penn’s treatise “the completest exposition of the theory of toleration of the time.”

In 1681, Penn was granted a charter and title of land in colonial America by King Charles II to repay a debt to Penn’s father and to remove Penn and his protests from England.  King Charles named the land Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s woods” or “Penn’s forest,” to honor Penn’s father, Sir William, who had been a friend of the Crown.  In founding a new colony, Penn hoped for revenue to pay off debts and to create a “tolerance settlement” in America for persecuted Christians.  He called this colony a “Holy Experiment” in religious tolerance and hoped it would be an example for Christians everywhere.

The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Penn’s ideas of religious tolerance, like Williams’s, differed from those of others who sought a conformed religious society that followed a state church.  Penn wanted to allow differences in Christian belief and worship.  He thought believers’ doctrinal differences were less important than their shared, fundamental Christian belief.

Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania was self-governing, had no state church, and allowed religious pluralism.  It forbid irreverence against God but did not impose conformity to one sect.  One had to be a Christian to be a citizen or hold public office, but no denominational restrictions existed.  The government maintained peace, order, and other necessary affairs.  Penn placed power in the hands of the people and in their consent of governance and laws.  Pennsylvania’s Frame of Government of 1682 declares, “Any government is free to the people under it where the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws, and more than this is tyranny, oligarchy, or confusion.”  The colony provided, says lawyer David Gibbs, Jr. in his book One Nation Under God, “not freedom from religion but freedom of religion—not a separation of government from all religion, but a government that respected the religious consciences of all its citizens.”  Penn hoped the environment would allow colonists to pursue and find true faith in God.

Penn recruited Christians of all sects from England and Europe.  Refugees came from many parts of Europe who were affected by the Protestant Reformation, European religious wars, and English Civil war.  Such Christian groups included Mennonites, Lutherans, Reformists, Moravians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Huguenots, Baptists, Dunkers, Quakers, Methodist Episcopalians, and others.  Colonists often described the settlers as “a great mixt multitude.”

Pennsylvania became one of the most religiously tolerant places in New England and the world at that time.  It became an example for the future nation of the United States of America.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

—–

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion…

—–

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Roger Williams and His Quest for Religious Purity

October 5, 2017
The Founding

Roger Williams:  His Quest for Religious Purity, Founding of Rhode Island, and Bible-Based Defense of Freedom of Belief

Puritan dissident Roger Williams was a pioneer of religious freedom in America.  Williams, a Puritan pastor in Salem, Massachusetts, believed in God’s supreme rule and the limitation of human power.  Yet he differed from traditional Puritan thinking and Governor John Winthrop in several ways, though the two men liked one another.  Much like the Pilgrims, Williams thought it was necessary to separate from the existing church (in his case from the Puritans’ official Congregational Church in Massachusetts) in order to form a more pure one.  Thus he separated himself from both the Anglican and Congregational state churches.

Williams was an advocate of freedom of conscience (or belief) and of greater distinction between church and civil government.  The official church in Massachusetts, to him, was impure due to its combined church and government and its oppressive practices to regulate religious beliefs and doctrine.  Such characteristics, to Williams, did not accurately reflect…

The separation Williams sought between church and government, say some scholars, turned over the understandings of the time not only of state church establishments but of the church itself.  Williams was banished from the colony of Massachusetts for his dissident beliefs and in 1643 founded the religiously tolerant colony of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island was “a shelter for persons distressed of conscience.”  This experimental colony supported freedom of belief and greater separation of church and government.  The colony did not have a state church, allowed peaceable differences of religious opinion, and viewed God alone as ruler of conscience.  Though Catholics, Jews, and atheists did not have full rights, their beliefs were tolerated.  Rhode Island’s government was “democratical,” held by the consent of all and by majority rule in secular matters.  The colony became a refuge for religious minorities–Quakers, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Antinomians, etc.–who fled from religious intolerance or persecution.

In 1644, Williams wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience (The Bloody Tenet) in support of freedom of belief and against religious coercion and persecution.  The Bible was the foundational source of his arguments, and some of his arguments were similar to reformer Martin Luther’s.  Williams advocated for free thought and belief because it was, he believed, the only means to true faith and religion.  His ideas raised questions and challenges but endured and solidified over time.  In response to Williams, Puritan pastor John Cotton wrote in 1647 The Bloudy Tenent, Washed and Made White in the Bloude of the Lambe to argue against some of Williams’s views.  Cotton supported, for example, the implementation of Old Testament law and religious conformity.  In response to Cotton, Williams wrote his 1652 The Bloody Tenent yet More Bloody: by Mr. Cotton’s Endeavor to Wash it White in the Blood of the Lambe in which he reasserted his views.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

—–

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion…

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

September 28, 2017
The Founding

Religious Freedom:  The First Experiments in Freedom of Belief and Religious Tolerance in America were based on the Bible and changed History

While the idea of freedom of conscience—freedom of belief and conviction—was advanced by the Reformation and existed in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, it was not embraced by everyone and was very restricted in actual practice, manifesting in only partial, contested, temporary ways.  However, the Bible-based arguments made for it by reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin were quite similar to those later made by individuals who directly impacted American thought and settlement in the 1600s and 1700s.

AHEF President and author Angela Kamrath speaks on religious tolerance in early America at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

American Puritan dissenter Roger Williams, Quaker William Penn, Catholic colonizer Cecil Calvert, and British philosopher John Locke played important roles in advancing freedom of conscience and religious tolerance in America during this time.  Their arguments for freedom of belief and religious tolerance were strongly rooted in the Bible.  Their tolerance writings and colonies would significantly influence future views and practices in England and America.

Williams, Penn, Calvert, and Locke would be the first movers to defend and experiment with greater freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America.  Their first experiments in religious tolerance took place in the colonies of Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Carolina: 

Houston Baptist University Professor of Government Dr. John Tyler speaks on John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

Based on conviction, these movers attempted to practice and experiment with freedom of belief and tolerance by forming new, tolerant colonies.  Their experiments were notable and real, if imperfect and incomplete, testimonies for the world in this largely unpracticed idea.  These colonizers and colonies brought the issue of freedom of conscience to the forefront of the American mind.

America’s unique, free environment and new colonies made such experiments feasible.  According to Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner in their text, Never Before in History: America’s Inspired Birth, “The Protestant Reformation in Europe and in the American colonies forced people to reexamine the traditional merger between church and government.  America in particular was to become the test case for resolving the tension between religious freedom and social conformity.”  The arguments for and experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America significantly advanced American and Western thought and practice on this issue and laid the groundwork for future religious freedom in the United States.

From AHEF, Dr. John Tyler, and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Source info:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 5:  Williams, Penn, and Locke:  Arguments for Religious Tolerance and Freedom Emerge in the 1600s, p. 147, 349.  MS-HS.

Williams, Penn, and Locke:  Arguments for Religious Tolerance and Freedom Emerge in the 1600s…

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What led to religious tolerance in early America? The Two Kingdoms Doctrine

September 21, 2017
The Founding

Reformers in Europe Recognize Two Kingdoms–Civil and Spiritual

Before and during the 1500s in Europe, countries were ruled by church states, and men had little religious freedom.  Religious tolerance did not widely exist.  The church and the civil state were combined and worked together to rule over the people and to regulate people’s religious beliefs and practices.  People were forced to conform to the official state church of their country and monarch or else suffer persecution and punishments.

The idea of freedom of conscience—freedom of belief and conviction—was advanced by the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s and existed in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s.  During the Reformation, reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin called for religious reform in the church but, in doing so, touched on political matters.  They broached ideas of freedom of conscience, and thus tolerance, and greater distinction between church and civil state.  In the spirit of Augustine of Hippo who wrote about two cities, earthly and heavenly, in his The City of God (c426); Luther and Calvin recognized two kingdoms by which God rules—civil and spiritual—that concern the life of man.  The civil kingdom is the earthly, temporal realm of man and concerns man’s physical life and relationship to others.  Man under God has some authority in this kingdom.  The spiritual kingdom is the heavenly, eternal realm and concerns man’s beliefs and relationship with God.  God alone has authority in this kingdom.  To the reformers, these two kingdoms have distinct jurisdictions.

Houston Baptist University Professor of Government Dr. John Tyler speaks on the Two Kingdoms Doctrine at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

In his 1520 Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom and 1523 Secular Authority:  To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, Luther of Germany says that…

To be sure, freedom of conscience was not embraced by everyone and was very restricted in actual practice in Europe at this time, manifesting in only partial, contested, temporary ways.  Yet the Bible-based ideas of Luther and Calvin in favor of freedom of belief were asserted by later European and American political thinkers who impacted American thought and settlement in the 1600s and 1700s.

From AHEF, Dr. John Tyler, and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

More source info:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 2 of 2, Activity 3:  History and Current Events:  Religious Regulation and Persecution, p. 161.  MS-HS.

History and Current Events:  Religious Regulation and Persecution…

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What were the challenges in the early Puritan colonies?

September 14, 2017
The Founding

Challenges in the Early Puritan Colonies:  The Dilemma of Religious Laws & Religious Dissent

When the Puritans set up their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut in the early 1600s, they sought to create Bible-centered commonwealths, or civil states, to reflect their deeply-held religious beliefs.  In undertaking this goal, they were undoubtedly affected by their experiences in Europe as well as by the model of the ancient Israelites in the Bible, which presented both benefits and challenges for the Puritans in their own time and unique circumstances.  One challenge that the Puritans struggled with was in creating and enforcing religious laws and religious conformity.

The Puritans in America desired religious freedom to worship as they chose and welcomed all who shared their beliefs

The Puritans came to America for the freedom to set up their own church and community according to their own beliefs, rather than be forced to conform to an official church with which they disagreed.  In America, they made their Congregational Church the state church.  To be sure, the Puritans, like their European forbears, initially supported religious conformity in their colonies.  Those who chose to come and live in their colonies had to abide by the same religious views and practices.  Religious conformity was, the Puritans thought, the only way to preserve their faith and to keep the community pure and moral.  It was necessary, they thought, to protect the church from heresy and corruption and to maintain peace.  In this sense, the Puritans did not tolerate different religious sects in their community.  However, Puritans like minister Nathan Ward responded to qualms about intolerance by stating that those with differing beliefs “have free liberty to keep away from us.”  Unlike in Europe, no one was forced to reside in their colonies and conform against one’s will and beliefs.  In this sense, the colony was indeed a free one.

In time, some Puritans with differing religious views emerged in the community and began to vocalize their dissenting opinions and beliefs.  These dissenters had to keep quiet on their views or else leave the community.  The Puritans in Massachusetts banished a number of dissenters including Roger Williams, who later founded the colony of Rhode Island, and Anne Hutchinson, who later moved to Rhode Island.

In their attempt to follow the example of the ancient Israelites, the Puritans directly applied the practices of ancient Israel in their commonwealths.  As such, they adopted Old Testament religious laws for their colony.  This approach led to…

Despite these challenges in their new colonies, the Puritan lifestyle had many benefits.  High moral standards characterized Puritan life.  The church was central to society, and the church hall was centrally located for public worship.  The sermon was the most influential form of communication in New England, and the Bible was the main source of sermons.  Puritan beliefs and lifestyle positively influenced values of family, community, work, law, and reverence for God.  In fact, daily life naturally supported the laws of the colonies.  The Puritans’ morality was so rigorous, says historian Mark Noll, that “almost all Americans since have been forced to react to it in some way.”  The Puritans would make radical Protestantism normal in America and give the future nation of the United States a strong moral rigor.

Though the Puritans struggled with issues of religious law and dissent, many of their Bible-inspired governing principles and civic values proved democratic, effective, and enduring.  The Puritans implemented (as discussed in earlier posts in this Puritan series) the principles of God’s sovereignty, covenants, constitutions, rule of law, popular sovereignty, consent of the governed, representative and limited government, literacy and education, and a strong moral and work ethic.  Such principles would lead to freedom, equality, individual rights, and constitutional republicanism in America.  These ideas and practices would become the Puritans’ valuable legacy.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 3 of 3, Activity 3:  Understanding the Puritans’ Desire for and Practice of Religious Freedom, p. 130.  MS-HS.

Understanding the Puritans’ Desire for and Practice of Religious Freedom… 

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans Valued a Bible-Inspired Work Ethic

September 7, 2017
The Founding

America is a country that was built upon hard work.  The first settlers in what would become the original thirteen colonies of the United States were instrumental in creating a culture of work that would characterize our future nation.  Much of their inspiration for work came from the Bible.

Engraving of Captain John Smith, 1616

In the first of the thirteen colonies of the United States, Virginia in the early 1600s, colony leader Captain John Smith had encouraged a strong, Bible-inspired work ethic among settlers because hardship, idleness, and greed had plagued many of those first colonists.  Many settlers did not want to work or lacked proper skills and experience to survive in the harsh environment.  Many spent their time searching for gold rather than farming.  Such challenges threatened the colony’s success and existence.  As a result, Smith implemented a Christian work ethic based on 2 Thessalonians 3:10 in which the Apostle Paul says to believers, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Smith likewise announced to the settlers, “You must obey this now for a law, that he who will not work shall not eat (except if by sickness he is disabled), for the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain one hundred and fifty idle loiterers.”  Smith’s Christian view of work was shared by the Puritans who arrived in America a few years later.

Jamestown Garden by Sidney E. King, 1957

In their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Puritans similarly valued and practiced hard work, industry, and diligence.  Work was a central part of Puritan life and society and aligned with the Puritans’ Christian beliefs.  The Puritans believed in living life as a service and glory to God.  In a sermon citing 1 Timothy 1 and 1 Corinthian 7, Puritan pastor John Cotton addressed God’s calling for man to work:  “Faith draws the heart of a Christian to live in some warrantable calling.  …  Paul makes it a matter of thankfulness to God to have given him ability and put him in a place where he might serve God (1 Timothy 1:12).  As God has called every man, so let each man walk (1 Corinthians 7:19-20).  This is the clean work of faith, that a man would have some employment to fill his head and hand with.”  Work was a duty and responsibility, the Puritans saw, that allowed for mankind’s provision and prosperity.  It could benefit the individual, family, society, and God as well as keep man away from the temptations of idleness and sloth.  It could also fulfill God’s assignments and purposes.  The Puritans did, in fact, prosper economically in America.  Some thought this prosperity was due to continued worship and service of Christ.

Title Page of A Description of New England by Captain John Smith, 1616

The American colonies attracted many from Europe because they gave people who were willing to work the opportunity to create better, fulfilling lives for themselves and their families.  In his 1616 Description of New England, Captain Smith writes of the opportunity in America: …

Though the pursuit of wealth later became more important than the pursuit of godliness for some, the church and the Bible continued to play an important role in American society.  The Puritan work ethic influenced ideas of industry and capitalism and became an important part of American life in the future United States.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

—–

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 2 of 3, Activity 7:  Economic Success in the Puritan Colonies, p. 119, 345.  MS-HS.

Economic Success in the Puritan Colonies… 

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Receive Blog Updates

Please leave this field empty.