Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils.
Roger Williams, in a letter to Connecticut
Governor Thomas Prence (1670)
The steeple in front of you is the First Baptist Church in America, gathered by Roger Williams in 1638. Williams was deeply religious, but adamant in his belief that religious and civil life should be separate. Raised and ordained in the Church of England, Williams and his wife, Mary, fled with other Puritan reformers to New England in 1631. After settling in Massachusetts Bay Colony, his separatist views threatened colonial leadership, and he was banished.
Williams founded a new community called Providence. Here, he insisted that civil rather than religious law would govern and that "all were free to walk as their conscience persuades them." Williams's legacy lives on in the Rhode Island Charter and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
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Although a devout Christian, Williams eventually denounced formal religion, preferring instead small, home-based meetings for preaching and religious fellowship.