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Church and State

Church and State

 Table of Contents

Church and State Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

During the seventeenth century, the religious-freedom seeking Puritans of Massachusetts Bay arrested, harassed, or kicked out every non-Puritan that tried to enter "their" colony. They hated Quakers the most; in 1658, they passed a law imposing the death penalty on any Quaker who returned to the colony a third time after being expelled. Mary Dyer, a woman who was either remarkably stubborn in her religious outlook, or perhaps simply unable to count, returned to Massachusetts four times before finally being hanged in 1660.32

From the colonial era through the nineteenth century, communities often passed laws to enforce their particular religious values. These so-called "blue laws" forbade the selling of alcohol before noon, required businesses to close on Sunday, and imposed civil penalties for "blasphemy." Today, these laws may seem quaint, or even silly. But a recent study by economists from MIT and Notre Dame concluded that repealing these laws in the modern era led to reduced church attendance, decreased contributions to religious organizations, and an increase in alcohol and drug abuse.33

In 2007, several religious organizations rallied to the cause of an Alaskan high schooler who was suspended from school when his principal took offense to a sign the student displayed during a downtown parade. The religious groups feared that the principal’s actions represented a threat to the religious rights of all students. If school officials are given the authority to "arbitrarily determine what student speech is offensive and off limits," the religious groups argued, "that could put all student speech at risk—including speech that advocates Christian beliefs on any issue." What exactly did the suspended student’s sign say? "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."34

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