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Later advocates for religious freedom argue that religious liberty should be defined as a natural right rather than as a right afforded by a civil government.
The first major mass movement in American history, the Great Awakening changes the way people experience God.
Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams establishes a colony he names "Providence" in present-day Rhode Island.
Williams had quarreled with Puritan authorities over their theology, their decision to remain within the Church of England and their failure to pay Native Americans for their land.
In 1624, King James officially charters Virginia as a royal colony.
Catholics and Jews are granted religious toleration in Pennsylvania but are not given the right to vote, a privilege extended only to Protestants.
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.
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.