Little Bits of History

Freedom of Religion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 13, 2013
Religious symbols from around the world

Religious symbols from around the world

April 13, 1829: The British government grants freedom of religion to Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics had been part of the British Isles since 597. While Christians arrived earlier, they were not associated with the Church as overseen by the Pope. The religious doctrine was established in Britain by Augustine of Hippo when the Pope sent him there. Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII disagreed over the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1534. Henry opted to become head of the Church of England which remained doctrinally Catholic. The difference was only the annulment which Henry granted himself.

Henry was excommunicated. There was persecution of Roman Catholics as well as other sects of Protestants. Edward I, Henry’s son, introduced more Protestant forms of worship to the new religion. He died and Mary I tried to return England to Catholicism. When Mary died, Elizabeth I came to power and tried to reform the Anglican Church. For the next 100 years, the two religions each tried to place their preferred royal on the throne, often resulting in bloody confrontations if not outright war.

Laws were passed in England as well as throughout the Empire restricting the rights of Catholics and other religions. The Act of Uniformity was a series of laws establishing the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Church as the State Religion. The Test Act was a series of laws making it legal to discriminate against Catholics and Nonconformists in regards to government employment and the severity of punishment through the courts. The Penal Laws addressed these issues in Ireland.

In Canada, the Quebec Act of 1774 removed some restrictions from Catholics. In Britain, the Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1778 and Catholics could own land again. Scotland and Ireland also granted rights to Catholics. With greater pressure from Ireland and Daniel O’Connell, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel introduced legislation to remove most of the remaining restrictions against Catholics. It was a compromise law, however, and much work remained before all religions could be equal under the law. Since 1701, it remains impossible for a Catholic to be monarch of England.

“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.” – Thomas Jefferson

“No religion can long continue to maintain its purity when the church becomes the subservient vassal of the state.” – Felix Adler

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” – James Madison

“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.” – Ulysses S. Grant

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Today, Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in England with the Anglican Church of England still holding a special position within Christianity. Christians comprise nearly 60% of the population. The next largest segment are the non-religious with about 25% claiming to not hold to any religious affiliation. There were 7% who declined to answer the question at all. Islam is the second most practiced religion but even so it only has 5% of the population as practicing Muslims. Other religions are 2% and Hinduism has about another 2%. The US is 73% Christian (48% Protestant and 22% Catholic), 6% other faiths, about 20% unaffiliated, and around 2% who refused to answer the question.

Also on this day : Houston We Have a Problem – In 1970 there is an explosion on the Apollo 13 lunar mission.
Hallelujah! – In 1742, Handel’s Messiah debuted.
What Were They Thinking? – In 1953, MK-ULTRA was launched y Allen Dulles.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on April 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    The title of the article should have reflected that in 1829 the formal laws were passed but that the freedom of religion was already theirs.

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