DBQ: Religious Freedom in Early America
America was settled by colonists who had been subjected to religious discrimination in their native countries. How did the religious diversity of the nation influence the formation of state and federal governments?
Use your knowledge of the era and the documents to answer the questions and then the essential question below.
“Whereas Almighty God has created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments . . . are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, . . .
that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; . . . that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry. . . .
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. . . . [Y]et we are
free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall hereafter be passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.”
—Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786
“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 peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
—First Amendment to the United States
1. What civil right does Document A protect?
2. What can you conclude about religion in the colonies based on Document C?
3. How are Documents A and B related?
4. Writing Task What effect did religious liberty have on the development of the new nation? Use your knowledge of the new government and specific evidence from the primary and secondary sources above to support your answer.