The Meaning of Religious Liberty in the New England States
Among the New England states, Rhode Island and Connecticut did not adopt constitutions or change their laws on religion, and did not, therefore, contribute significantly to the debate in America over religious liberty. In their constitutions, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont reaffirmed, but liberalized, their traditional decentralized system of financial support of religion, even though it was very controversial and opposed by a significant minority of the people, especially the Baptists, on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the free exercise of religion. After being reaffirmed, the system was challenged in court with conflicting results that led to its being enforced in an unpredictable manner. By 1800, it was no longer working but was not repealed for several more years.