Written by Don Byrd

The Baptist tradition of fighting for religious liberty and church-state separation has a long and distinguished  heritage. While the American celebration of Thanksgiving hearkens back to the pilgrims, Baptists can thank one particular Puritan who landed in Massachusetts Bay in 1631: Roger Williams.

Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island on the basis of a radical principle: that for religion to thrive, the state cannot pick favorites. Adherents of all faiths must be free to exercise their religion. That was more than 100 years before that same idea would be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The earliest Baptists – who experienced their share of persecution – recognized that if anyone’s religious liberty is denied, everyone’s religious liberty is in jeopardy.

This Thanksgiving, while I contemplate the many reasons to be thankful, I will give a nod to Roger Williams, founder of the first Baptist Church in America; and not because he fought to protect the rights of Baptists, but because he first promoted the idea that being a Baptist means protecting the rights of all. I’m thankful too for all those who follow his example in that commitment!

Happy Thanksgiving to all BJC Blog readers! Enjoy the holiday!