Elisha Paine and the Freedom to Worship

When Elisha Paine preached as a Baptist, Massachusetts authorities threw him into a dirty prison at Worcester for unlicensed preaching (February 1743). He refused to post bond, believing to do so was to comply with an unbiblical and corrupt system. After his release in May, he continued to preach in that area for two weeks, then preached throughout New England from July into December. By the end of the year had given over 240 sermons.

The following year, Connecticut authorities jailed him for preaching although he was not licensed by the colony’s Congregational Church. He paid his jailer to allow him to preach in the prison yard and many people came to hear him. Later when Paine refused to pay taxes to the established church in Windham, Connecticut, authorities seized his livestock. In 1752 they imprisoned him for the same offense.

This mistreatment of a godly man shows how dangerous it is for church and government to act in cahoots. It is why the first amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits governments from making any law respecting an established religion or abridging freedom of worship.