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The US Constitution’s Separation of Church & State…

“Where are the Roger Williams of today? How amazing that such a phenomenal figure is not even more greatly immortalized in our schools for his heroism.”   Ed Asner, star of Lou Grant.

Following my recent postings on gov’t v. business, this article features the founder of my birthplace, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, by Roger Williams (1603-83). (That’s the actual name of the state.)

Roger Williams (1603-83)…

None of the rights we have are a gift from heaven nor are they the automatic consequence of social progression.

Every right has been earned thru protest, struggle and sacrifice, and maintained only thru continuing vigilance.

In fact, as Karl Marx recognized, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.”

Becoming a Puritan in Britain, Williams ran afoul of the Church of England and its self-appointed Royal leadership…a direct partnership between Anglican Church and state.

An educated theologian and gifted linguist of Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Dutch and French, Williams emigrated to the Boston Colony in 1631.

Refusing a leading position with the Puritans, which remained allied with the King and the “corrupt and false” Church of England, he made clear his belief that he supported separation, freedom of religion, and a wall between civil and religious law.

He was also outspoken in favor of the abolition of slavery (Africans had only started being imported into the colonies in 1619), favored fair treatment and negotiations with Native Americans, and became a linguist in their languages.

Studying Native history, he published a tract condemning the lies in the Charters of King James and Charles I. He concluded that allowing the seizure and privatization of Native land without proper negotiation and payment was a crime.

William’s Salem Home: “The Witch House”…

In 1635 he was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy. The Court declared that he was spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions.” He was ordered to be banished.

In January 1636, the sheriff came to pick him up only to discover that Williams had slipped away in a blizzard where he walked 105 lives from Salem to Narragansett Bay.

Massasoit, the chief sachem of the Wampanoags, along with the Narragansett, granted him a tract of land on which he founded a free settlement that he called Providence. It became a center of religious and civil freedom for all dissenters to the Colonies including Baptists, Quakers and Jews.

From the beginning, the settlement was governed by a majority vote of the heads of households, but “only in civil things”, and newcomers could be admitted to full citizenship by a majority vote. They drew up a town agreement, which again restricted the government to “civil things”.

Thus, Williams had founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were divided, a place where there was both religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

Among the books he wrote was A Key into the Language of America (1643), in which he concluded that the Natives were as much worthy as the English.

Homage to Massasoit…

He wrote: “Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;/Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good./Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,/As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.”

He refused to baptize a single Indian out of respect for their culture.  Written of him by The Center for Liberty of Conscience is:

Pilgrims and Puritans came to America seeking religious freedom for themselves.  Roger Williams arrived in America seeking Liberty of Conscience for all of us:  Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, unbeliever and pagan.”

Thomas Jefferson certainly paid Williams his due respect. In 1802 Jefferson wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God…. I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature [the Constitution] should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Conservatives and fundamentalists love to cite false histories for their fallacious beliefs and positions. They have the precise same thing in mind as did their ruling forebears back thru history:

Whatever lies and perversions that suit their quest for personal privilege and profit at the expense of everyone else.

As for the struggle to acquire and maintain liberty and social responsibility…Use it or lose it!

Dr. Publico

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