Massachusetts Enacts First of Many Laws Imposing Restrictions on Quakers

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Christian History
Religious Intolerance
Church & State History

In Massachusetts, the first of many laws imposing restrictions on Quakers is enacted. The law itself states as its target the "cursed sect of heretics lately risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers," and it imposes a fine of £100 on any captain who brings Quakers in by ship and a £5 fine on any colonist possessing any Quaker book.

Quakers themselves who enter the jurisdiction of the colony are to be punished severely. They must:

"be forthwith committed to the house of correction, and at their entrance to be severely whipped, and by the master thereof to be kept constantly at work, and none suffered to converse or speak with them during imprisonment."

At this time the concept of the separation of church and state has not really taken hold, thus the line between religious dissent and political dissent — even the line between blasphemy and treason — is practically nonexistent.

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