This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Freedom of religion and The Puritans

In the Bill of Rights of The United States of America it states:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

This was a revolutionary idea at the time, and has been under constant attack throughout the history of The United States. It's a real cornerstone of American freedom, and goes against everything that my Puritan ancestors stood for. People often point to The Puritan's lack of "freedom of religion" as a fault of their society, but it isn't. It made perfect sense to them. The last thing that they would want would to live in a Godless world, which is exactly how they would have seen this.

Freedom of religion, as defined in The Bill of Rights of The United States, makes it illegal for this country to form a state religion. It allows anyone who lives in this country to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. This means that your neighbor can have an entirely different religion that you. People have been chipping away at this for as long as that freedom has existed, and The United States government has backed down several times under pressure. In the 1800s, "In God We Trust" was printed on coins. Courts of law introduced the use of "swearing to tell the truth" on a Bible, even The Ten Commandments were prominently displayed in public buildings. If you walk around late 19th-century America, it does look like the state-run religion has won, and freedom of religion was gone.

But were are still many people who believed in this basic freedom. And to help remind people what we were fighting for in World War II, Norman Rockwell included this painting (at left) of Freedom of Religion. And he made a point to include the words "Each according to the dictates of his own conscience" right on the painting. The Puritans would never have allowed this.
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