History Reverses Itself! On Religious Liberty Redivivus

The Following is a Press Release from “Historic St. Mary’s City”  that details an interesting reversal of History:

 In 1704, Maryland Governor Seymour ordered the sheriff to lock the Roman Catholic brick chapel at St. Mary’s City and see that it was never again used for worship.  With that action, the colony’s experiment in religious freedom ended.   

On Sunday, September 20, 305 years after the original chapel was sealed, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy Cameron will unlock the massive oak and pine doors of the reconstructed chapel.  The reconstruction stands as a symbol of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state, which were practiced in 17th-century Maryland far in advance of the laws and practices in other New World colonies.

The reconstructed chapel, which was rebuilt on its original foundation, is architecturally complete but not yet furnished.  It will be open to the public during museum hours as finishing allows.  An interpretive pavilion will be open to the public in summer 2010. 

The public is invited to attend a brief unlocking ceremony and explore the chapel on Sunday, September 20 at 5 p.m.  Researchers and builders will be available to answer questions about the project.  Artifacts from the chapel excavations will be on display and light refreshments will be served.  There is no charge for this event.

Travel to St. Mary’s City and follow signs for parking.  Participants will gather at the Mackall Barn for a procession to the chapel.  For more information about this event or Historic St. Mary’s City visit stmaryscity.org or call 240-895-4990 or 800-SMC-1634.

All of this is very good news. Allow me to quibble with only one point. The expression “separation of Church and state” is not a Constitutional phrase. This expression is found nowhere in the US Constitution. Rather I prefer the expression “religious liberty.” The First Amendment to the US Constitution says this:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Hence,  is true that the the State is not to establish a particular religious faith as the official State religion. But the fundamental point of the First Ammendment is that  it is religious liberty that is protected, NOT the State. It is the State that is prohibited from abridging religious liberty. It is not the Church that is prohibited from attempting to influence the thoughts of men, even if they be Statesmen. We who are religious are free to attempt influence, it is the State who is prohibited from canceling that right. Today, the interpretation of this rule is usually backward. Too many seek to limit the influence of religious thought. This is not enshrined in our Constitution as many claim but rather, the opposite.

With my little diatribe out of the way, enjoy this video that tells you more of  St, Mary’s City, once the largest and most thriving port, the “New York City” of its day, now a hidden ruin for archaeologists, a “what might have been” for historians. This video also gives more information of the rebuilding of the Roman Catholic Brick Chapel on its ancient foundation. I hope to be able to celebrate a Latin Mass there soon!