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Is the separation of church and state important?

Of our thirteen original colonies, nine established “state churches.” Back then Baptists were a tiny, persecuted minority. Baptist churches were shut down, and some of our preachers were imprisoned or banished from colonies for preaching Baptist principles.

The first colony to grant true religious freedom was Rhode Island. Roger Williams, who helped found the First Baptist Church of America in Providence, was instrumental in writing that freedom into the colony's charter. In Rhode Island, you would be free to worship in any church-or in NO church-without facing penalties, fines, or imprisonment by the state.

When the Constitutional Convention was held, the framers looked back on centuries of religious wars in Europe. Protestants had been persecuted by Catholic Monarchs, and Catholics by Protestant Monarchs. The founders determined that America would NOT be like that. Here the state and the church would not meddle with each other, for the protection of both institutions.

When the Constitution was ratified, Baptists worked hard to see that its First Amendment would guarantee Congress would pass no laws instituting religion, and that all Americans would be granted the free exercise of their beliefs. Today, in our denomination, the American Baptist Churches USA, we still proudly uphold the separation of church and state as one of our fundamental principles.


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