First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 7, No. 1 September 2006
The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United
It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries, and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only, in soul matters, able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God's Spirit, the word of God." --- Roger Williams
Roger Williams and the Massachusetts Bay Colony
by Dr. Bruce Prescott
Engraving both the
Mayflower Compact and the Ten Commandments on the same monument sends a strong
signal that a Christian democratic theocracy is being endorsed. This is
demonstrated by the signal importance of the Ten Commandments in the controversy
that led to the expulsion of Roger Williams from the Massachusetts Bay
He lived at Plymouth Plantation and preached at the church there from the fall of 1631 to the fall of 1633. Williams made some powerful enemies while he was there. He believed in separation of church and state and religious liberty for everyone -- whether they were "paganish, Jewish, Turkish or anti-Christian."
Consonant with his convictions about religious liberty, Williams did not believe that civil government should enforce all of the Ten Commandments. He believed that Christians should observe all of the commandments, but he held that civil government should only enforce the "second table" of the law -- the last six commandments. The commands of the "first table" of the law -- the commands regarding religion and worship -- he believed should be left to private, individual conscience.
Williams had a
forceful and memorable way of making his point about the inviolability of
conscience. He said that
"cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship"
and he came to the defense of the "souls
of men who by persecution are ravished into a dissembled worship which their
hearts embrace not."
It was laid to his charge that, being under question before the magistracy and churches for divers dangerous opinions, viz. 1. that the magistrates ought not to punish the breach of the First Table, otherwise than in such cases as did disturb the civil peace;" Winthrop added that, "Much debate was had about these things. The said opinions were adjudged by all magistrates and ministers (who were desired to be present) to be erroneous and very dangerous."
Williams also challenged the Massachusetts Bay Puritans most fundamental belief about their "covenantal" relationship with God. They saw themselves as a "new Israel." "Covenants" like the Mayflower Compact were viewed as the equivalent of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai. The nation of Israel enforced all the commandments. Any nation that was a “new Israel” should enforce all of the commandments. That was why, in their eyes, it was both heretical and treasonous for Williams to suggest that civil government should not enforce the commands of the "first table" of the Ten Commandments.
that colonies on the American continent could properly be viewed as a "new
Israel." He argued that the relationship between the church and "The state of
the land of Israel, the kings and people thereof, in peace and war, is . . .
figurative and ceremonial, and no pattern nor precedent for any kingdom or civil
state in the world to follow." (Bloudy
Tenent, p. 3.)
After Rhode Island's charter, provisions against being "molested" for religious convictions made its way into the charters and constitutions of several other colonies and states. Among them is the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma.
concerning the history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony are important for fully
comprehending the strength of the endorsement of Christian governance that is
being memorialized by the combination of the Mayflower Compact and the Ten
Commandments on the monument at Stigler. It endorses a covenantal form of
"democratic theocracy" that has no historical precedent in Oklahoma state
history. It also endorses a relationship between church and state that was
rejected by both the framers of the United States Constitution and the
Constitution of the State of Oklahoma.
The Charter of Rhode Island Colony (1663)
"Noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments."
Constitution of the State of Oklahoma (1907)
Section 1-2 Religious Liberty:
"Perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of the State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights."
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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