Religion in the 13 Colonies has researched Religion in the Original 13 Colonies, and and concluded: “All 13 American colonies had some form of state-supported religion. This support varied from tax benefits to religious requirements for voting or serving in the legislature.” All colonies were predominantly Christian. Eight of the colonies had state-sponsored churches. Five did not.

Official Church of Colony at Founding

Anglican / Church of England: Maryland, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia

Puritan / Congregational Church: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire

No Official Church: Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island

Even those colonies without a state-supported church were “Christian” by charter. Some examples of the colonies mandating religious activity in their charters:

  • The colonial governor of Virginia in 1617 declared it a crime not to go to church on Sundays and Holidays.

  • Connecticut Colony Charter in 1662 called for all residents to have“the knowledge and obedience of the onely true God and Saviour of mankind, and the Christian faith.”

  • Charter of Rhode Island, 1663: Called for residents to pursue "the holy Christian faith and worship”.

  • New York's Charter of Liberties and Privileges in 1683 dictated that anyone professing “faith in God by Jesus Christ” will not be punished for any difference of opinion. In other words all Christian denominations were free to practice in New York.

  • Charter of Delaware, 1701: “All Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively...”

The majority of the 13 colonies did write religious restrictions into their states constitutions. Most restrictions applied to office holders in the state governments, requiring a belief in Protestant Christianity.

  • Maryland State Constitution, Article XXXIII, in 1776 stated: “That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty...”

  • Delaware State Constitution Oath of Office, 1776: “I _______, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, One God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.”

  • North Carolina Constitution, 1776: “That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments …., shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.”

  • Pennsylvania Constitution in 1776 required oath for elected representatives: “I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.”

  • New Jersey Constitution (1776): “That there shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another; and that no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right, merely on account of his religious principles....”

  • Georgia Constitution in 1777 allowed for citizens to have free exercise of their religion, but also required that Representatives be of the Protestant religion.

  • South Carolina Constitution, 1778, requirements for a state authorized church: “That there is one eternal God, and a future state of rewards and punishments. That God is publicly to be worshipped. That the Christian religion is the true religion. That the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are of divine inspiration, and are the rule of faith and practice”.

  • The Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 mandated that all elected officials take an oath of office that included their professing the Christian faith.

  • New Hampshire Constitution in 1784 required all elected officials to be of the Protestant (Christian) religion.

  • Connecticut Constitution (1818). Article I. Section 4.: “No preference shall be given by law to any Christian sect or mode of worship.”

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