Throwback Thursday – Quakers and Religious Discrimination

By Kristen Johnson

On this day in history, October 27, 1659, 2 Quakers were executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for practicing their faith – two years after they left England to avoid religious persecution. Quakers opposed central church authority, advocated sexual equality, and were very outspoken against slavery. (

It’s truly bizarre to think about the Puritans coming to America in 1620 to escape religious persecution only to then persecute other religious sects. The colonies (and later the U.S.) has since then had a history of religious persecution, contrary to our claim to allow religious freedom for all. Antipathy towards Catholics was rampant during the colonial era, Massachusetts allowed only Christians to hold public office for a time, New York’s Constitution banned Catholics from public office from 1777-1806, and in Maryland Catholics had full civil rights but Jews did not, and on and on. (

Fast forward to today. The law of the land states that: Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s all fine and good from a legal standpoint, but do Americans really want to follow that law? Do we follow the law or do we still discriminate?

Recently, Kim Davis hit the news for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky. Jack Philips, a baker in Colorado, similarly hit the media-waves by refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. (National Review). In 2014, the city of Houston demanded that pastors turn over their sermons for review, and just yesterday it was reported that the state of Georgia was demanding copies of sermons from a lay minister. (Fox News; WND). There are many more examples of discrimination in the U.S. against Christians, Muslims, Jews, and more – sadly, these are just a few examples.

Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if people came together across faiths to serve in the community? I have a long-running fantasy of serving in a food bank alongside someone in a hijab, another person in a yarmulke, and yet another in a turban. The sad truth is that I tried to find examples of such cross-faith work online and I couldn’t find any examples. There are examples of inter-faith worship services and discussions, which is certainly a start. But, we need to be working together to serve the world.

Acts 20:35 (NRSV): 35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Serve all with love.

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