World’s Strangest

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America’s True History of Religious Tolerance

You might think that modern America is losing ground on one of its founding principles: religious freedom. But the concept was never universal. Since the first settlers, people are all for the freedom of their own religion, but not so much for other people’s religions.

In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.

Smithsonian magazine looks at how religious intolerance reared its head over the course of American history. Link

(Image credit: The Granger Collection, New York)

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