In The United





     But even in the United States, Sabbath-keepers had endured more or less persecution, and when, on the second of October, 1798, a member of their Ephrata society was haled into court for working on Sunday, the judge read a letter, which George Washington wrote to the Baptists of Virginia, dated August 4, 1798, in which he assured them of full religious liberty. It was not easy, however, for the people to grasp the truth that religious liberty is an inherent right, and that governments are instituted to protect the individual in his God-given rights, and that church and state are to be kept separate. (Luke 20: 25) The champions of liberty had a long, hard fight to secure the adoption and ratification of the Federal Constitution and its, First Amendment, and it will take the utmost watchfulness by the friends of freedom to retain the liberty there guaranteed.

     When the Constitution was drafted and made its appearance, the friends of religious liberty, especially those who had been oppressed under the religious establishments of the colonies, felt that liberty of conscience was not sufficiently secured by the proposed Constitution. While Article 6 forbade religious tests as a qualification for office under the government, there was no guaranty against religious tests and religious intolerance to those not in office. So on May 8, 1789, the United Baptist churches of Virginia addressed a communication to George Washington, in which they gave expression to the prevailing fears in this matter. Washington replied as follows: "If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed by the convention where I had the honor to preside might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the errors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution. For, you doubtless remember, I have often expressed in sentiments that any man, conducting himself as a good citizen and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." - "History of the Baptists," Thomas Armitage, D. D., pages 806, 807.

     About a month later, James Madison, with the approval of George Washington, introduced in the first Congress that met under the new Constitution, the first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, the first of which enjoins Congress from all religious legislation. It is as follows:

     "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

     Thus the champions of liberty secured for the citizens of the new republic full liberty of conscience to worship, freedom of speech and of the press, and it will take eternal vigilance to retain these rights unimpaired. See "American State Papers," William Addison Blakely, pp. 152, 153, revised edition. Washington, D. C.: 1911.

1943 CE, FAFA 151-152