Freedom of Religion: THe Maryland Toleration Act Essay

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Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle in the founding of the Maryland Colony in 1634. The Maryland Toleration Act, drafted by Lord Baltimore, provided:
No person or persons...shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof.
The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed. The animosity between Protestants and Catholics in the United States of America, also called ‘American Anti-Catholicism’, resulted from the English Reformation. British colonists were determined to establish a truly reformed church in the
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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion. Adopted on 15 December 1791, it is one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson wrote of the Catholic Church in France: ‘History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.’ Jefferson, in his own book of biblical stories, suggested that religion was a set of moral conventions that promoted social harmony. But with antipathy between America’s Protestant and Catholic populations at the time, social harmony had yet to be promoted. Howard Zinn writes that the prejudice apparent in the Civil War period included not only ‘racial hatred for blacks’ and ‘nativist fury against immigrants’, but also ‘religious warfare against Catholics.’

The hostility between Protestants and Catholics in pre-Independence America has survived in the 20th century, albeit in a different form – political partisanship. In one notable example, the former pastor of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina ‘told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Senator John Kerry should either leave the church or repent.’ The church later expelled nine members who did vote for Senator Kerry. While the First Amendment
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