God, Government and Roger Williams' Big Idea

Roger Williams was born about 1603. Sir Edward Coke, England's greatest jurist, referred to him as a son. Through Sir Edward Coke's influence, Roger Williams attended the University of Cambridge where he studied theology. A controversial figure in his day, Roger Williams remains so today. While some state that Roger Williams never contributed anything to America's constitutional right of religious freedom, John Barry credits Roger Williams with creating "the freest society in the Western world" when he founded Rhode Island with a "hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wildernes of the world." Although Roger Williams seventeenth century Puritan, Barry believes that Williams' thought and writings are relevant for today. Williams believed that government's authority resided with the people and that it was "'monstrous' to compel conformity to his or anyone else's beliefs." He also believed that "God's will was better discerned by individuals than by institutions", an interesting claim given recent developments in US law.

Read Barry's Article on Roger Williams