BY SHARON MARTIN
There was no separation of church and state in the Massachusetts Colony, and those who held differing views about religion often paid with their lives. In 1659, Marmaduke Stevenson and William Robinson were hanged for the crime of being Quaker missionaries. Their religion wasn’t state approved. Mary Dyer was asked to leave the colony and take her religion with her, but when she returned in 1660, she, too, was hanged.
Even Puritans were not safe. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson disagreed with the governor on matters of faith and were banished from the colony. Witchcraft, still considered a sin by many, was punishable by death. With flimsy or made-up evidence, one could get even with enemies and acquire their property. Intolerance and hate were acceptable moral values.
In the 20th Century, the Ku Klux Klan terrorized Jews and Catholics, often with the approval of church and government leaders. Today, enemies of freedom are still trying to blur the lines between religion and politics. They cite the founding fathers in their fight for Christian school vouchers and Ten Commandment statues, but it was a group of our founding fathers who insisted that the following be included in the new constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ”
There is no state religion. And there should be no tax dollars spent to support a religious school or any private business. Faith-based charities do good works in our state and our nation, but they have no business being part of our government. When the lines between church and state are smudged, the danger to all our freedoms is real and immediate.
Thomas Jefferson was so proud of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom that he wanted it included as one of three accomplishments marked on his tombstone. He wrote that it was meant to protect “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
Thanks to Jefferson, James Mason, James Madison, and other early leaders, the United States is not a Christian nation but a nation where Christians are free to worship. Religious tolerance: it’s the law of the land.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer