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When the colonies were settled, they consisted of a diverse religious population, ranging from the Puritans in New England to Anglicans in Virginia.

George Washington's Beliefs

George Washington's Beliefs

Washington was a member of the Church of England, the state-sponsored religion in the British Empire. He served on the vestry, or council, of his church and helped finance it. Discover more about Washington's religion below!

Washington's Beliefs
Catholicism in America

Catholicism in America

Catholicism was intensely persecuted by the Protestants, and the Protestants heavily mistreated the Catholics: this was true both in Europe and the colonies. However, Washington had a friendly relationship with the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church

Where was Religion in America? Click to Learn More!

Why do you think religious persecution exists?

Religion in Early America Timeline

1607
1654
The Church of England Reaches America
The Enslaved Arrive
Pilgrims Land on Plymouth
Catholicism in Maryland
The Baptists Arrive
Quakers Come to America
Judaism in New York

1607

The Church of England Reaches America

The first British settlers arrive in Jamestown, establishing the Church of England as the universal, state-sponsored religion. Washington himself was Anglican and served as a church leader.

The Enslaved Arrive

Enslaved people arrive in Virginia for the first time, bringing Islam and other religions with them.

Pilgrims Land on Plymouth

The Pilgrims arrive in Massachusetts, establishing Puritanism as the dominant branch of Christianity in New England.

Catholicism in Maryland

The Catholics arrive in Maryland. Maryland would later outlaw Catholicism in 1688, persecuting Catholics until the eve of the American Revolution.

The Baptists Arrive

Roger Williams and the Baptists arrive in Rhode Island, establishing the Baptist church.

Quakers Come to America

The first Quakers arrive in New Jersey and quickly settle in Pennsylvania after experiencing persecution both in the colonies and abroad.

Judaism in New York

Jewish people arrive in New York. They were not allowed to hold office and were denied full citizenship. The Jewish settlers eventually built Truro Synagogue in 1763.

Primary Source: Anti-Catholic Oath

Primary Source: Anti-Catholic Oath

When Washington first enlisted in the British Army, he was forced to repeat this anti-Catholicism oath:

 “I…do declare that there is no Transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lords supper or in the Elements of Bread and wine at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.” 

By doing so, Washington denied the essential beliefs of the Catholic Faith.

Why do you think Washington was forced to do such a thing?

Church and Government

Church and Government

Many people in the colonies who wanted religious freedom did not like religious difference. They wanted everyone to follow their specific religion, and would often incorporate religion into their governments.

This was true in George Washington's Virginia, as well as New England. Why do you think this is? How do you think people reacted to these laws - especially those who wanted to practice something else?

Why do you think colonists who looked for religious freedom refused to tolerate religious difference?

Religious Freedom Home

Click the link to go back to Religious Freedom Classroom Resources

Link to Homepage

Watch Religious Freedom


Learn how George Washington successfully established religious freedom in America with this 15 minute film!

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