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Henry's bill is defeated; Madison reintroduces Jefferson's bill, and it passes in 1786.The bill is listed on Jefferson's tombstone as one of his three most important accomplishments.The document formally severing ties with the British government enshrines the American idea that "liberty" and "freedom" are rights given by God.The idea of America as a land uniquely blessed by divine power will echo throughout American history.In 1624, King James officially charters Virginia as a royal colony.Its inhabitants are required by law to be members of the Anglican Church and to pay taxes to support the church.Ministers such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards encourage individuals to make an immediate, intense and personal connection with the Divine.
In 1784, Patrick Henry introduces a bill that would impose a tax to support churches but would allow citizens to designate the church their taxes would support; the following year James Madison writes "Memorial and Remonstrance," a widely circulated pamphlet that makes a strong case against state-supported religion.
He receives an immense tract of land west of the Delaware River from King Charles II (in repayment for a debt owed Penn's father) and establishes the "holy experiment" of Pennsylvania.
The colony's founding documents include provisions for religious toleration, freedom of the press and statements of equality that include women, but not slaves.
Williams' colony of Providence guarantees freedom of conscience and becomes a haven for religious dissidents.
Outspoken, opinionated and well versed in the Bible, Hutchinson accuses the ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of teaching false doctrine and asserts that God has spoken to her directly -- a claim considered heresy in Puritan theology.
Over time Penn's colony attracts Quakers and Anglicans from England; Lutherans, Reformed, Mennonites, Amish and Dunkers from Germany; and Presbyterians from Scotland.