Liberty won and lost
1660 or 61’ – The Vestry Law was adopted in the colony of Virginia that provided that two church wardens would be chosen annually from a vestry of twelve to take the oath of supremacy to the British Sovereign, and subscribe (to) the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.” This was for the purpose to collect the “glebe” from every “tithable” person regardless of sect. The “glebe” was that parcel set aside for the Anglican minister and his family which included at least 200 acres, a mansion with a kitchen, a barn, stables, a dairy, a meat house, a corn house, and a fenced in garden. The Baptists strongly resisted such taxation in several colonies where it was levied. There were those who strongly desired for these laws to continue even into the Commonwealth of Virginia, after the Declaration of Independence, one of such was Patrick Henry, who had been a champion of liberty, even on behalf of the Baptists. The Baptists, believing that true religion did not need to be propped up by the state continued the pressure until the Virginia Legislature passed an act in 1799 that said that all religion would be a matter of the conscience and that incorporation of any religious society was in violation of religious liberty. Churches were not incorporated in Virginia until Jerry Falwell brought suit against the state and won in 2002. How sad that a Baptist would destroy the very liberty that his Baptist forefathers suffered to gain. The final victory came in 1802 when a law was passed to sell all of the “glebes” and return the money to the people. That was the final nail that was driven into the coffin of the state church. Now we have come full circle where we have a state/church set up once again through the tax-exempt (501 (c) (3) church and incorporation.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 118. (Editor is responsible for commentary regarding Falwell and the tax-exempt state/church.)
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