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The Constitution And Freedom Of Religion In The United States

1165 words - 5 pages

For millennia, man has persecuted himself for religion. This was due to his inability to accept other beliefs, which led to distrust, alarm, and suspicion. In its most extreme form, persecution resulted in expulsion from countries and genocide. However, as western man became more civilized, this behavior was deemed deplorable. Therefore, religious persecution morphed into a more socially acceptable pattern- discrimination. Thistransition stemmed from the establishment of the Constitution of the United States that guaranteed religious freedom. This reasoning is best illustrated by the trials by two religious groups, who lived at different times, in what is now the Northeastern United States.
Religious instability plagued Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, as monarchs were excommunicated and countries faced both internal and external conflicts. In 1570, Catholic intolerance increased in England following the excommunication of Elizabeth I (Middleton 95). Anti-Catholicism acquired ground during the Anglo-Spanish War, as Catholic Spain crusaded against immense amounts of Protestant nations. Fearing the augmentation of Catholic rule, the English established severe penal laws, which imposed fines on Catholics attending mass and priests who were caught presiding. The Catholics felt obligated to protect their religion and sought refuge in the new world. George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, established a safe haven for Catholics in the colony of Maryland. A convert to Catholicism, Calvert was denied entry into the colony of Virginia, and obtained a charter from Charles I (McDougall 47). In 1634, the colony of Maryland was established and permitted various religious practices (MacCaffrey 270). Calvert encouraged Jesuit missionaries to live amongst the Indians, which incitedrevulsionfrom the Protestants in neighboring Virginia; both Catholics and Jesuits “claimed the rights to church lands, tax exemptions, and legal privileges” (McDougall 48). The English Civil War marked the actual beginning of Catholic persecution in the colonies, as hostilities augmented between Charles I and Parliament; the Catholics naturally backed Charles I while the Protestants supported Parliament. In Maryland, both a Protestants assembly and governor were appointed. The Protestants expelled Catholics priests, seized their property, and executed any opponents (Simmons 48). The Catholics were defeated and Oliver Cromwell, an English military and political leader, limited their religious freedoms. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 disposed of Catholic leader James II, and denied Catholics the right to vote and serve in the military.Catholicism was denounced in the in the colonies, and many were forced to convert to Protestantism (McCaffrey). This resulted in mob activity against Catholics.
During the early 20th century, the United States encountered an influx of Jewish immigration. These migrants often fled despotic rulers who oppressed their...

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