Americans often say that the United States was founded for religious freedom, and that is somewhat accurate. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, which now make up Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, were founded in part by people seeking religious freedom. We typically think they were fleeing from religious persecutions in England, and certainly some were. In reality the founders of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island were actually fleeing religious persecutions in Puritan Massachusetts.
The Puritans believed that their religious beliefs were right and those who disagreed were wrong. That is not unusual for deeply devout people. Religious leaders in Puritan Massachusetts were also the governmental leaders, and they wanted to build a colony that was devoted to God religiously and governmentally. Anyone who challenged the religious authorities on a doctrinal issue was also challenging the civil authorities. If the Puritans allowed people to disagree with them and remain a part of the community then the entire structure of the colony could collapse.
The Puritans get a justifiable bad rap for they way that dealt with dissenters, but their actions were logical. If you believe that you are right, then anyone who disagrees is a potential threat to you and your family. Their ideas if not crushed might lead your children astray, so you do not tolerate their espousal. You love your children, and you protect them from dangerous ideas for their own good.
For the Puritans, the alternative was not an option. You cannot have a perfect and ideal colony if there are some who disagree with you, because they will lead people astray and ruin your colony. Puritans believed that Massachusetts would cease to be devoted to God, if the Puritans allowed those who disagreed to have a say in their colony. From the Puritan perspective they were right.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.