Liberty of conscience is for those who truly fear the Lord. A fundamental task of the state is the establishment of pure religion.
—John Cotton, Puritan Clergyman (1584–1652)
But who is to decide who truly fears the Lord? The magistrate has no power to enforce religious demands. The laws of the First Table of the Ten Commandments are not regulations for a civil society or a political order. They belong to the realm of religion, not politics.
—Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode Island (1603–1682)
…we cannot afford the despair and inevitable degeneracy of no establishment at all! Therefore we shall propose Christianity itself as the established Religion of this Commonwealth…
—A reconstruction of Patrick Henry’s speech to the Virginia Legislature in 1784
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?
—“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” by James Madison to the Legislature of Virginia in 1785