With Thanksgiving fresh in mind (and stomach), I was reminded recently that the Puritans' idea of religious liberty was such that, after they settled Massachusetts, the next two American colonies were created for the purpose of--yes, religious liberty. Of the kind not allowed in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, they were burning witches at the stake in the good old Bay State.
Not the story you were told about the Puritans? Plymouth Rock and all that? Imagine if we'd all been taught in grade school that: 1) the first Pilgrims came here from England for the purpose of establishing an official religion and forcing everybody else to worship it or die; and 2) we need to be on guard against that sort of religious fanaticism in the United States even today. That dangerous combination of legal authority and religious dogma was well known to Washington, Madison and the rest of the Framers, which is the reason the very first clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that there will be no official national religion. And the second clause essentially repeats the first, assuring the free exercise of religion.
Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!
This piece was adapted from Dent, the Independent's blog.