In his work “The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience,” Roger Williams presented religious freedom as an inalienable right of the individual, which cannot be limited by any authority (Hennessy, n.d.). Civil power does not extend to human souls, laws that force the soul and conscience of people are unacceptable. Williams represented freedom of religion as a consequence of the natural equality of all religions, leading to a solution to the question of the legal status of an individual in a state. The determination of the founder of Rhode Island led to the fact that England reconsidered its position on freedom of religion in the colonies. The Royal Charter, bestowed on Rhode Island in 1663, guaranteed freedom from unlawful persecution, punishment, or harassment based on religion and established a provision according to which the governing bodies of the colony could not be formed based on religion (Galie et al., 2020). Thus, Rhode Island can be considered the most democratic and least dependent on the influence of the metropolis of the colony; the provisions of the charter of 1663 were used for 180 years until the adoption of the constitution of Rhode Island in 1843 (Gallie et al., 2020). In the colonies founded by opponents of the Massachusetts regime, the foundations of the emerging religious freedom at that time were established, initially expressed in the desire to establish the independence of the authorities and those in power from the church.
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Roger Williams’ views on religion and government directly influence modern-day discussions of the separation of church and state. First, the right to freely practice religion is one of the fundamental human and civil rights in the United States; it is defended as enshrined in a supreme legal document. It is necessary to understand that this norm, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is negative; that is, it does not provide certain, tangible freedom to citizens but prohibits the authorities to restrict freedom, which is thought of as inalienable, natural, acquired by a person at birth. Second, in current discussions, the prevailing point is that any government should maintain public order and justice, but no one has the right to support and encourage anyone denomination or religion (Pfeffer, 2018). Last but not least, the aspect of freedom of religion in the modern United States is the establishment of a secular government by the US Constitution(Pfeffer, 2018). The ban on establishing a religious qualification for election to office in public authorities finally determined the supremacy of secular authority over religious authority, which made it possible to ensure equal access to public service for all citizens of the United States.
Galie, P. J., Bopst, C., & Kirschner, B. (2020). Rhode Island. In Bills of Rights Before the Bill of Rights (pp. 369-386). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Hennessy, D. (n.d.). Classics of American Literature, Volume One. Web.
Pfeffer, L. (2018). Church, State, and Freedom: Revised Edition. Wipf and Stock Publishers.