This is an old piece on a critical American value now being questioned. Where did our ideas of separation of Church and State come from? This core value is older than the United States itself – and comes from a different place than many expect.
It naturally comes up in my family just before Thanksgiving every year. The Puritans’ deliverance to America is billed as a search for religious freedom, something which is a core value of our nation. It’s good that we celebrate such a thing, but do the Puritans really deserve credit for it? The short answer is no, they do not, because they were seeking to establish their own theocracy – and across the ocean where no one would bother them seemed like the perfect place.
Religious tolerance as a founding principle of America came from a different source – William Penn, the “absolute proprietor” of Pennsylvania. The reason that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves is murky at best, but may have its origins in a prejudice that most of us wouldn’t even understand today. I think it’s time to correct that.