Although some darkly mutter that that our secularity of our government was an atheist plot, it was actually a profoundly religious Baptist minister, Roger Williams, who gave us the gift of a separate church and state 400 years ago.
Here’s the short form as to why we’re not actually a religious theocracy right now.
In 1630, John Winthrop led 1,000 men, women and children to start the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These Puritans left England because they were disgusted with what they saw as corruption in the Church of England and the tyranny of the crown. Finally given complete freedom to create the simple worship and personal intimacy with God that they long desired, they proceeded remove religious freedom from others. “Puritan ministers were compelled—upon pain of imprisonment—to wear the surplice and use the Book of Common Prayer, and their congregants were compelled to participate in what they regarded as rote worship.”
In other words, having risked their lives to escape an oppressive religious regime, they immediately started to set up one of their own. Humans!
However, Roger Williams, actually paying attention to history, felt that they should use this chance in a new world to do better than their forebears in protecting religion from the games of politicians.
“Williams believed that preventing error in religion was impossible, for it required people to interpret God’s law, and people would inevitably err. He therefore concluded that government must remove itself from anything that touched upon human beings’ relationship with God. A society built on the principles Massachusetts espoused would lead at best to hypocrisy, because forced worship, he wrote, “stincks in God’s nostrils.” At worst, such a society would lead to a foul corruption—not of the state, which was already corrupt, but of the church.”
Chased away from the Massachussetts Colony under threat of banishment or execution for his dangerous ideas, he eventually started what is now Providence, Rhode Island. “Unlike all other English settlements, this one neither set up a church nor required church attendance. Indeed, later it would decree that a simple “solemn profession [had] as full force as an oath” in court.”
“I infer that the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” The governments they establish, he wrote, “have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with.”
This was revolutionary stuff, people! Apparently, it still is!
Roger Williams gambled his life on protecting religion and politics from each other.
His gift made it possible for America to be enriched by the contributions of people from all faiths and none, becoming the greatest nation in the world. His gift allowed religious liberty to flourish, exemplified by the existence of over 217 separate denominations of Christianity. His gift let us be a “light unto all nations” about the true nature of freedom.
Make the ghost of Roger Williams proud. Reject the corruption of religion. Reject the injection of dark money into our churches.
Minimal Script: I’m from [zip code] to ask Rep. [___] to work against any effort to roll back the Johnson Amendment and to oppose any tax reform plan that allows tax-exempt religious organizations to influence political issues and campaigns.
More script if you want it: The House version of the tax bill would strip the Johnson Amendment of its protective strength in maintaining the separation of church and state, allowing dark money to gain a greater hold on our political process.
Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Senator Contacts: http://www.phoneyourrep.com
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