The Contentious Legacy of Roger Williams

Over at Religion & Politics, Thomas Lewis has an essay on the admixture of religion and politics in Rhode Island. Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in large part to create a haven of religious tolerance, after he was expelled from Massachusetts. Rhode Island is also an interesting venue for such fights because it is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and overwhelmingly Democratic. The essay points to the central conundrum in these fights: Williams wanted to keep religion and politics separate, but they keep mixing anyway, and in the U.S. the default position has become to keep the public square - the officially public square, that is anything governmental - free of all religious symbols. But, how is that not an endorsement of secularism? These issues are very, very thorny.


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