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America's Road to God and Religious Freedom T here are always opponents to religious liberty. In 1620 the Pilgrims arrived on the shores of the new world—driven by their desire for religious liberty. It did not take long before the Puritans, a few miles away in Boston, aligned themselves with the Congregational Church and Anglicans to set up an official controlled church. In 1635 Roger Williams was expelled from Boston for preaching reli- gious freedom from civil government. Facing banishment, he fled to Indian Territory, purchased land from the Indians, and founded a Baptist church. Williams' property eventually became the Colony and then the State of Rhode Island. The Pilgrim community befriended Roger Williams. A distinction must be made be- tween the Puritans and the Pilgrims. Contrary to general perception, the Pilgrims were NOT Puritans. The Pilgrims were SEPARATISTS. They sought for total freedom. The Puritans sought to “purify” the Church of Eng- land—hence their name “Puritans.” The Pilgrims were separatists who separated from the church. The Puritan version of “religious liberty” was reli- 4 • NATIONS gious liberty but only for themselves— not for Baptists. They launched per- secution against Roger Williams. Roger Williams was a champion of full religious liberty in colonial America. America was in danger of setting up a state church led by Anglicans and Puritans. In early Massachusetts, there were about 60 Baptist churches with 5,000 members. During those early years, Baptists were subjected to imprison- ment, beatings, banishment, and reli- gious fines. In 1638 Dr. John Clarke, also flee- ing persecution in Massachusetts, led a group of believers to Newport, Rhode Island, and organized a Baptist church. In 1652 Obadiah Holmes succeeded Dr. Clarke as pastor.