Home > Uncategorized > Happy Toleration Day!

Happy Toleration Day!

On this day in 1649, the assembly of the Maryland Colony passed the Maryland Toleration Act, also known as the Act Concerning Religion.

While the act did not provide for full freedom of religion in the colony, it did allow specific religious groups to practice their religion without being punished. The act did retain the ability to revoke that right at any time and only granted tolerance to Christians who believed in the Trinity.

The act was repealed in 1654 and was never reinstated.

Granted, it wasn’t a perfect piece of religious liberty legislation, it was the first legislative step at respecting religious differences in the New World.

As our friends at Wikipedia point out:

It predates the Enlightenment, which is generally considered to be when the idea of religious freedom took root, and stands as the first legal guarantee of religious tolerance in American and British history. Later laws ensuring religious tolerance and freedom, including the British Act of Toleration of 1689, the Holy Experiment in Pennsylvania, and laws concerning religion in other colonies such as South Carolina, may have been influenced by its example. According to historian Robert Brugger, “…the measure marked a notable departure from Old World oppression.” It was not until the passage of the First Amendment to the Constitution over a century later that religious freedom was enshrined as a fundamental and absolute guarantee, but even that document echoes the Toleration Act in its use of the phrase, “free exercise thereof”. Thus, despite its lack of a full guarantee of religious freedom or broad-based tolerance, the law is, “a significant step forward in the struggle for religious liberty.”

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