• The United States has its origins in religious controversy • First major settlement in the 1620s by religious dissidents called Puritans • The Puritansarrived in the ‘New World’ with a strong sense of historical mission and quickly established a social and cultural life centred around the Church (a theocracy)
• John Winthrop “A Modell of ChristianCharity” : “wee must consider that
we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee have undertaken, and soecause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.” (document 1 in fascicule)
• Puritans were a product of the ProtestantReformation in Europe (political and theological radicals for their time) • We think of them today as being conservative, but they believed in empowering individuals and stressed: democratic practices,general education for boys and girls, and higher education for the formation of ministers. • Puritan social organisation and culture would be the basis from which a large part of the United States wouldgrow, and at the heart of it was religion.
Religion at the time of the Constitution
• By the time of the American Revolution, the country had moved away from the Puritan theocracy. • Deeplyreligious, but most felt that a separation between churches and elected government was needed • Because of experience of persecution, most believed that it was necessary for government to protect the rightsof religious minorities
• The religious heritage of the country is obvious in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Declaration speaks of ‘Nature and Nature’s God,’ while the Prologue ofthe Constitution gives a list of ‘Blessings’ that the country hopes to secure through its government. • The First Amendment is the most important official statement on religion (part of Bill of...