The primary question remains: Does the government of the United States truly practice of the separation of church and state? Discussions and disagreements regarding this matter have been a staple of controversy for religious leaders and political officials beginning in the early 17th century and extending to the present day. At a time when kings and rulers relied heavily on their spiritual advisors for making administrative decisions, church executives were also responsible in rendering verdicts for law-breaking offenses and passing down judgments in civil matters. During the initial stages of growth and development of the United States of America, English settlers wanted to create a society that gave the inhabitants certain freedoms and liberties. Life in America in the 1630s would never be the same because a devoted man of God would ultimately change the course of American history. Considered to be radical and foolish, Clergyman Roger Williams would challenge his religious leaders for the separation of church and State. Unlike his predecessors, he sought to have all civic and political rulings be the duty of judges and civic officials. Williams was unwavering on his mission that this new colony of Massachusetts Bay and its church officials should not have opinions and or rulings that were of partisan, criminal, or civil in nature.
Williams’ teachings in the 17th century were so unconventional that his radicalism eventually would have him banished from Massachusetts Bay colony. Williams’ attitude and opinions were not the same as his fellow spiritual associates. He and his fellow supporters would relocate to the land of the local tribe of Indians on Narragansett Bay. His original intent was to preach to the natives and convert them to the white man’s religion. Williams and his group of enthusiasts eventually integrated with the tribe and bargained for purchase of the land with the native residents and established a new colony called Providence. The news of the liberties in this new settlement quickly spread causing Providence to become a safe refuge for religious minorities not wanting to adhere to the Purist laws and the social order. In Providence, Williams structured a government protecting the privileges of the individual to practice their own set of beliefs. After twenty one years of sustaining the colony, Rhode Island became a flourishing, self-sufficient society. Massachusetts officials began to take notice that Rhode Island was a thriving community and able to cohabitate with the Indians.
Even though Roger Williams was the trailblazer of religious toleration, he had developed a great relationship with the Narragansett Indians. This rapport would serve him well as colonial leaders of Massachusetts requested that Williams be the negotiator between the tribal leaders and them. Despite the failed attempts by Massachusetts to claim Rhode Island’s townships of Providence, Newport, Portsmouth and Warwick, Williams still decided to become the go-between and arbitrated cases that involved homicides, misconducts, and jurisdictional disputes between the English and the Indians. Roger Williams encouraged the separation of rights to the people and for religious liberties, but he did not embrace all religions. He assumed the Indians’ practices of sacrifices were cruel and barbaric. Williams rejected their style of worship because they believed the ancestors to be spirit guides and the light of truth for the tribal elders. Williams adamantly opposed the Quakers with their viewpoints of promoting only one religion. He believed that people of dissimilar races, backgrounds and philosophies should have the freedom to choose a religion or reject it and not be chastised based on their beliefs or values. Roger Williams encountered the greatest resistance from the Reverend Nathaniel Ward, whose message of religious intolerance was contrary to Williams’ new approach for religious freedoms.