The Meaning of Religious Liberty in the Middle States

  • Ellis M. West


In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, whether to have an established church or laws dealing directly with religious matters was not an issue, because those states, as colonies established by Quakers, had long before 1776 committed themselves to complete and equal religious liberty. In those states, the main issue was whether the free exercise of religion gives persons/groups a right to be exempt from obeying valid secular laws that burden the exercise of their religion. More specifically, does it give pacifists a right to be exempt from having to serve in the military? After intense debate, citizens of those states answered, no. In New York, the main issue was whether religious freedom prohibits discrimination against Catholics and the answer was, yes.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellis M. West
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of RichmondRichmondUSA

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