DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE IN AMERICA. WHEN AND HOW EFFECTED.
The first State that dissolved its connexion with the Church was Virginia, a circumstance that seems surprising at first sight, inasmuch as its early colonists were all sincere friends of its established Episcopal Church, and for a long period were joined by few persons of different sentiments. Indeed, for more than a century dissent was scarcely, if at all, allowed to exist within the commonwealth, even in the most secret manner. (page 105)
Robert Baird, Religion in America: Or, An Account of the Origin, Progress, Relation to the State, and Present Condition of the Evangelical Churches in the United States, Published 1844.
The Baptist Church
Has in its American and English history a noble record in favor of freedom and free institutions. The great conflicts of the Reformation under Luther brought them into existence as an ecclesiastical body, and at all times and in all nations they have been loyal to civil and religious liberty. In England, their faith and freedom-loving principles led them, with the Puritans and Independents, to separate from the Church of England, and to seal, as many did, their devotion to truth by a martyr’s death.
Roger Williams, of Rhode Island, was the founder of the Baptist Church in America, ‘ In 1638 he formed a church in Providence: so that the labors of this denomination date from the first era of the Christian history of the country. He had the honor first in this country to enunciate and incorporate into a civil constitution the principle that “the civil power has no jurisdiction over the conscience. The civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control opinion—should punish guilt, but never violate the soul.” “It became his glory,” says [historian George] Bancroft [1800-1891], “to found a state on that principle; and its application has given religious peace to the American world.” Rev. Benjamin F. Morris’ 1864 book The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. (pages 553-554)