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Jonathan M. Yeager

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199916955

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199916955.001.0001

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An Argument for the Separation of Church and State

An Argument for the Separation of Church and State

(p.271) 42 An Argument for the Separation of Church and State
Early Evangelicalism

Isaac Backus

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents excerpts from Isaac Backus's An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, Against the Oppressions of the Present Day (1773). Backus was a New England Separatist who actively campaigned to rid America of taxes that supported state churches. After hearing the preaching of Eleazar Wheelock and other revivalists during the Great Awakening, Backus experienced conversion in August 1741. For much of the remainder of his life, Backus joined forces with other Baptists in petitioning the government for relief from paying taxes to state churches. In An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, he stressed religious tolerance, liberty, and equality, insisting that it would be impossible to recreate the kind of godly commonwealth that many of the New England Puritans had imagined. He argued that Americans should be allowed to attend, and financially back, the church of their choice.

Keywords:   taxes, Isaac Backus, America, state churches, Baptists, religious tolerance, religious liberty, religious equality, New England, Puritans

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