Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Magna Carta and the rise of religious liberty

The Magna Carta & the rise of religious liberty - Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press:

June 15, 2015 - "Eight hundred years ago on June 15, 1215, a group of English nobles at Runnymede forced a reluctant King John to endorse a document of grievances against royal authority.

"Written by Stephen, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Magna Carta was designed to be a compromise between rebellious nobles and the king. The work contained allusions to protecting religious liberty that, remarkably, would be embraced by England, the United States and much of the West today in subsequent centuries....

"For instance, Article One stated, 'First that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired'....

"Among other provisions in the document, Article 22 restricted fines on the private property owned by church clerks to only the value of the particular property without reference to the total value of an ecclesiastical holding in the kingdom....

"Article 27 empowered the church to supervise the liquidation of the property of free men who left no will. This provision probably preserved a practice already in place, but with this provision, the framers formally ensured that that the church, rather than the state, be involved in these personal but important post-mortem decisions.

"Article 62 issued pardons for all (including individual clergymen) involved in the dispute between the crown and clergymen who had joined the rebellion against the king. This continued a pattern within the document of also protecting the rights of clergymen apart from the protections on the church itself -- an important aspect of religious liberty.....

"Other articles that seemingly expanded the privileges of the nobles apparently referenced the clergy as well. Some of these guarantees included provisions for trials in local courts, protections against unlawful seizures of goods or persons, and respect for property rights. The framers of the document noted that all these customs and liberties applied to "all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen.

"For the next few hundred years, various English political figures invoked the Magna Carta in defense of both political and religious liberty rights. Furthermore, the British and American political bodies, building on the lofty but hazy principles of the Magna Carta, eventually added more substantial protections to religious liberty. The British Act of Toleration of 1689 recognized the rights of all Protestants, including Baptists, to practice their faith without interference. In 1791 and 1829, the British Parliament legalized the status of Catholics by the Roman Catholic Relief Acts.

"In the United States, the Constitution of 1787 and the Bill of Rights of 1791 gave specific protections to religious liberty that included the abolition of religious tests for public office and specific guarantees for citizens to practice their faith. Other Western nations, as well as many non-Western nations, offered similar protections in the years after the 1790s."

Read more: http://www.bpnews.net/44932
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