Many sources cite religious freedom as a primary motivator behind Europeans who settled in the Americas. Yet, colonists had very different interpretations of the meaning of religious freedom. In many cases, they wanted the freedom to practice their religions, but were not interested in letting others do the same. In New England, differing views on religion led to persecutions and banishments as well as the establishment of one of the first colonies to embody the concept of freedom of religion, Rhode Island. In this lesson, students look at this story through the lenses of critical figures—John Winthrop, John Cotton, Roger Williams, and Anne Hutchinson—and discuss how these leaders’ shaped freedom of religion in America.

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