Separation of Church and State is often misunderstood by liberals and conservatives. Many Liberals believe the idea of "Separation of Church and State" should remove GOD from all public discourse. While some conservatives want to altogether dismiss the idea of a "Wall of Separation".
The term: "Wall of Separation" was coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Baptists, to assure them of freedoms that would be included in the Bill of Rights. However it has come to my attention that Roger Williams decades before used the term in a sermon illustration. Why did Roger Williams want to build a “wall of separation” between church and state? From the fifth century through the Reformation, church and state ruled together, and the marriage consistently produced wars, destruction, killings, and intense persecutions of those who did not embrace state religion. Yet there was more. Williams realized, as Baptists before, that state religion – even in the guise of Christianity – was false religion. True religion, according to Baptists, was voluntary and came from a free conscience, as taught by Christ. State operated or approved religion, therefore, was the enemy of genuine faith.
Persecuted for his beliefs (and nearly to the point of death) by the Puritan (Congregational) state church of New England, Williams purchased land from Native Americans and founded Providence Plantations (now the city of Providence, Rhode Island) in 1636, and eight years later was instrumental in the establishment of the colony of Rhode Island.
Providence, initially, and then Rhode Island, were founded on the principles of freedom of conscience, full religious liberty, and separation of church and state. The rise and advocacy of these principles was a radical development in the history of colonial America, and Williams and his fellow Baptists in particular were considered, by other Christians, to be liberals, heretics, and infidels.
The generations of Baptists in America who followed Roger Williams continued fighting for the separation of church and state. Christian government officials in both the northern and southern colonies persecuted the heretical sect. Baptists, who refused to pay taxes to the state church and refused to baptize their infants (as the law required), were beaten, whipped, jailed, stoned, shot, waterboarded, and had their lands confiscated. In some cases, church state officials accused Baptist parents of child abuse for not baptizing their infants into the state religion, and in punishment took their children away from them.
The persecution of Baptists was not isolated. Between 1768 and 1776, roughly one-half of all Virginia Baptist preachers served time in jail for preaching in public, refusing to pay taxes, or otherwise defying the theocratic Anglican government in Virginia. In the 1770s, as America rebelled against Great Britain, most colonies were yet ruled by church states. Even as colonial governments and politicians proclaimed political freedom from England, they denied religious freedom to Baptists.
Yet, Baptist patriots proved valuable in the fight against Great Britain, and soon Baptists in Virginia were able to acquire new, powerful allies in the fight to separate church and state. Among their allies were Virginians James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Baptists, most visibly represented by the popular evangelist John Leland, worked alongside the efforts of Madison and Jefferson to secure Jefferson’s 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which separated church and state in colonial Virginia and secured religious liberty for citizens.
Five years later, in 1791, American Baptists’ nearly two centuries-old campaign for church state separation was finally realized in the enactment of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. Stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the United States became the world’s first secular nation by enacting the Baptist vision of a “wall of separation” between church and state. As Baptists had long advocated, the First Amendment forbade government from interfering with religious expression (free exercise clause) and forbade the government from establishing or incorporating religion into government (establishment clause).
Source Cited: Bruce T. Gourley is the project developer. Bruce, a historian (Ph.D., Auburn University), is the Executive Director of the Baptist History & Heritage Society, online editor of the Baptists Todaynews journal, and the author of three books, including A Capsule History of Baptists.
"As With Roses"
Pastor Obadiah Holmes was the second pastor of the Newport Church in Rhode Island, the firstBaptist Church in America. In the following [copied from History of the Baptists, Armitage, BSB Publishers, 1887. pg 687-688] he and two of the brethren suffer much for the cause of Christ, but it was the blood of Brother Holmes that was the first to be shed in America for the sake of our Saviour.
On Monday they were removed to Boston an cast into prison, the charges against them being for ‘disturbing the congregation in the afternoon, for drawing aside others after their erroneous judgments and practices, and for suspicion of rebaptizing one or more amongst us’.
Clarke [this is John Clarke, first pastor of the Newport Church] was fined 20 pounds sterling, Holmes 30, and [James] Crandall 5 pounds sterling; and on refusal to pay they were ‘to be well whipped’, although [Governor] Winslow had told the English Government that they had no law ‘to whip in that kind’.
Edwards [historian] says that while ‘Mr. Clarke stood stripped at the whipping post, some humane person was so affected with the sight of a scholar, a gentleman, and reverend divine, in such a situation, that he, with a sum of money, redeemed him from his bloody tormentors’. Before this he had asked the Court, ‘What law of God or man had he broken, that his back must be given to the tormentors for it, or he be despoiled of his goods to the amount of 20 pounds sterling?’ To the which Endicott replied, ‘You have denied infant baptism and deserve death, going up and down, and secretly insinuating into them that be weak, but cannot maintain it before our ministers’.
Clarke tells us that ‘indulgent and tenderhearted friends, without my consent and contrary to my judgment, paid the fine’. Thus somenone paid the fine of Clarke and Crandall, and proposed to pay that of Holmes. The first two were released, whether they assented or not, but Holmes who was a man of learning, and who afterward succeeded Dr. Clarke as pastor of the Newport Church, would not consent to the paying of his fine, and because he refused, he was whipped thirty stripes, September 6, 1651. He said that he ‘durst not accept of deliverance in such a way’.
He was found guilty of ‘hearing a sermon in a private manner…and for suspicion of their having their hands in rebaptizing of one or more’. Bancroft [historian] says that he was whipped ‘unmercifully’, and ‘that for many days, if no some weeks, he could take no rest but upon his knees and elbows, not being able to sufferany part of his body to touch the bed whereon he lay’.
While enduring his torture, he joined his Lord on the cross and Stephen in praying that this sin might not be laid to the charge of his persecutors; and when his lacerated flesh quivered and blood streamed from his body, so powerfully did the Grace of the Crucified sustain him that he cheerfully said to his tormentors:
YOU HAVE STRUCK ME AS WITH ROSES!
Fellowship Baptist News
A place to catch up on the latest events...