Silas Mercer (L)

Baptists win liberty in Georgia and Virginia


1785  – BAPTISTS SECURED RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN GEORGIA AND VIRGINIA AFTER THE NATION WAS ESTABLISHED  – On February 21, 1785, an act by the Georgia legislature was passed for the support of religion, prorated by the number in each denomination, and providing that any “thirty heads of families” in any community might choose a minister “to explain and inculcate the duties of religion, and “and four pence on every hundred pounds valuation of property” should be taken out of the public tax for any such minister, the Baptists rose up in sending a remonstrance to the legislature by the hands of Silas Mercer and Peter Smith the following May. They insisted that the obnoxious law be repealed on the grounds that the state had nothing to do with the support of religion by public tax, and it was repealed.  State governments in America that were accustomed to supporting their established religion by taxing their citizens continued to do so even after the disestablishment of those state churches after the Union was officially established and their state constitutions were in place.  The Baptists considered this to be an antichrist system and had stood united against such taxation for the support of religion even if for the benefit of their own.  This same issue had to be fought by the Baptists in Virginia during the 1780’s against the Anglican establishment.  During this time a general assessment for Religious Teachers was proposed.  The Virginia Baptists strongly opposed the bill and obtained 10,000 signatures against its passage.  The Baptist General Committee meeting at Powahatan, VA, Aug. 13, 1785, resolved: “…that it is believed repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel for the Legislature thus to proceed in the matters of religion; that no human laws ought to be established for this purpose…the Holy Author of our religion needs no such compulsive measure for the promotion of His cause; that the Gospel wants not the feeble arm of man for its support,…and that, should the Legislature assume the right of taxing the people for the support of the Gospel, it will be destructive to religious liberty.”
Baptists in Georgia and Virginia stood firm on their convictions and that’s why we have religious liberty clauses in all fifty states in the Union today.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 71.


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