Freedom of Religion on Immigrants - Essay Sample

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University of Richmond
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According to Pope Francis, the greatness of America stems from the inclusion of the freedom of worship into the bill of rights and its protection by the constitution. In its founding days, people moved to America for various reasons but mostly due to persecution and forced uniformity of religion. The majority of these immigrants came from Europe because they were unwilling to compromise their religious beliefs. They formed new colonies of faith where they could worship as they wished. The development of the state as a separate entity to religion encourages independent development, preventing unnecessary conflicts in their relationship. The paper will focus on religion as one of the bill of rights that was important to early immigrants.

The first amendment of the Bill of Rights gives a provision regarding religion. It states that the government wont make a law regarding the foundation of a new religion or prevent its practice. It means that all persons protected by the US constitution have the right to worship in any way they want without interference. It also means that the government and religion are two self-governing existences that can grow independent of each other. Diana L. Eck claims that the foresight shown by the founding fathers has paid fruit (p.78). She states that the diversity of religion has grown compared to two hundred years ago. It means that the freedom of worship is being practiced today more widely than it was when the country was founded. It also means that people are finding their religion and worshiping in their way, which was the original intent of the founding fathers. However, this right wasnt widely used. According to Albert J. Raboteau, the slaves used to practice their faith in secret and risked flogging as they did so (p.225). He calls them the invisible religion. The slaves were denied their freedom of worship by claims like the religious teachings of their masters were the real teaching.

Religion played a large role in the abolishment of slavery. Slaves are thought of as reluctant early immigrants. From Albert J Raboteaus book Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South, it can be said that even when the practice of religion by slaves was punishable, many slaves prayed, sang and preached in secret (p. 311). They went to the extent of worshiping in woods, gullies, bushes, hidden within wet rags and clothes to avoid the attention of their masters. In the Abolition movement, Christians from the denominations not related to government-run churches organized and run the movement. They were usually found on the front lines vehemently preaching against slavery. The philosophers of that time agreed with the Abolitionist movement principles, but their actual contribution to the fight was inconsequential. These preachers taught the equality of all men under God. Specifically, Quakers who were the first leaders of the movement made antislavery petitions before others. It was such that their British members publicly announced their objection to slavery in 1727. The role religion played in abolishing slave trade. Religion in America led to an awareness of the need for the freedom of worship, which brought liberty to men (Yukich, p.43).

Religion is also a safety blanket for believers to practice without fearing punishments, mocking or segregation. It is evident that the main cause of the early immigration from Europe to America was religious persecution. In New England, it should have therefore been apparent that the new settlers would break away from the old teachings, and practice faith the way they didnt in Europe. This wasnt the case, however. The Puritans, who were previous victims, carried over the teachings from the Old World theory. They enforced uniformity of religion and were against separation of Church and state. In other words, they didnt believe in the right to the freedom of worship. Therefore after gaining control of the colonies, the former victims became the masters, labeling those who preached against their doctrines as heretics. These heretics once caught, would be expelled from the colonies, with repeated offenders risking capital punishment. This unfortunate fate befell Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer among many others.

In winter 1636, Roger Williams, a former Puritan leader, wrote that God doesnt need uniformity of faith enforced by any civil state, for it would birth civil schism. These words were recorded in his book titled: The Bloudy Tenet of Persecution, for cause and Conscience, discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace, published in 1644 (p.55). Due to his strong opinions, he later founded Rhode Island, where he welcomed all religious beliefs and practitioners, even those regarded as extremely unconventional. Mary Dyer was a casualty of the Puritan doctrine. She first supported Anne Hutchinson and got herself and family expelled from Massachusetts. They moved to Rhode Island, where she converted to Quakerism. She returned to New England where she continued to preach Quaker principles. After being expelled thrice, she was finally hanged on 1st June 1660. The anti-quaker laws adopted by the Virginia Assembly in 1659 went against the freedom of worship. This right would, however, be adopted in the document Virginia Declaration of Right. The document would serve as a precursor to the wide adoption of the right in other states. It is alleged that this document would also influence Thomas Jefferson when drafting the declaration of independence, later worming its way into the bill of rights. In conclusion, the freedom of worship has been very important to the early American immigrants.

Question Three

The Fat of the Land

The Fat of the Land is a short story whose moral is change. Being stuck in your past creates a discord with your present. The author gives us a snapshot of the times when Hanneh Brieneh was poor and rich. When poor, she always complained how her life was hard, her children were like a pack of wolves, how the butcher always gives her bones. When she got rich, she complained about how she didnt have any friends and how her children give her everything except express their love for her (Yezierska, p. 219). She carried over her habit from when she was poor to when she was rich. Her daughter Fanny is even afraid of being seen with her in public. She complains that her children have adopted American lifestyles.

In the end, she learnt that while her experiences of yesteryear are valuable, she has to adapt with the times, else she is like a mountain in the middle of a river. Two outcomes are bound to occur; the river will go around the mountain or through it. Either outcome isnt good for the mountain. The author expresses this symbolically. Hanneh spends one night at Mrs. Pelzs home symbolizing her past, the next day she walks the streets of the ghetto, realizes that she has outgrown her past and goes back to her apartment symbolizing that she has learned something and made a decision.

Works cited

Eck, Diana L. A new religious America. HarperCollins World, 2002.

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave religion: The" invisible institution" in the antebellum South. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Williams, Roger. The bloudy tenent of persecution. Vol. 3. Narragansett Club, 1867.

Yezierska, Anzia. "The Fat of the Land." Hungry Hearts (1920): 218-19.

Yukich, Grace. One family under God: Immigration politics and progressive religion in America. Oxford University Press, 2013.

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