This unit deals with a church-state issue. The experiences of the Baptists in Connecticut shed some light on the development of full religious liberty in our state which was granted to all in the Constitution of 1818.
The main objective of the study is to have the students become aware of the position of the Puritans and how they responded to another group over a period of time. Then they will be able to compare this development of religious freedom and its contemporary manifestations. The unit is designed for grades 7-12 for a duration of seven days to two weeks. However, parts may be used by teachers depending on the class lesson and tine available.
In medieval Europe the concept that various religions and churches could grow up side by side and flourish within the same country would have seemed impossible. Throughout Western Christendom before the Reformation, there was but one recognized religion and one acknowledged church. After the Reformation religion increasingly became individualistic. The great emphasis on the individual’s conscience and the necessity of going to the Bible for direction and inspiration was to bloom into greater individual liberty on the Continent and in the New World. The influence of an open Bible was strong both upon the emerging structures of the churches, and the political units in America. Thus, the drive for personal liberty on the one hand and religious conformity on the other produced a very unusual religio-political fabric.
When the universality and unity of the prevailing form of Christianity was broken by the Reformation, the form of religion decided upon and established in each state became the state religion. The transition from the conception of one religion throughout Christendom to that of a religion for each state was a considerable one. Far greater, however, was the change from the situation wherein a national religion was alone professed and tolerated by each country to a condition of society in which all religions were treated equally.
The tensions brought about by such change were evident in the development of religious liberty in Connecticut and more particularly in the encounter between the Puritans and Baptists in that colony.
The early settlers of Connecticut were Puritans. They lived in an age when religious toleration was not widespread. They did not intend their settlements to be an asylum for all. They regarded it as both their right and duty to protect themselves and their children from all error. Tgis led them to take two positions— uniformity in public worship, and the connection of church and state. The first forbade religious toleration, and the second led to the defense and support of religion by legal means.