America: Land of the Free
Religious History from 1587-1776
A School Play written by Jessica Roberts
Queen Elizabeth 1587
King James I 1604
New World Colonist 1640
Patrick Henry 1776
Various Groups For Recitations
Group One - Recites "The American's Creed".
Narrator: I love being an American; the land of the free, the home of the brave. But America had to become a free nation. Join us as we follow religious history for nearly two hundred years... from 1587 to 1776.
Queen Elizabeth: The year is 1587. I am Queen Elizabeth the First. It is an exciting time. The New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus almost a hundred years ago! The Dark Ages are over; and I have Martin Luther to thank for that. In 1517, now that was 70 years ago, a bit before MY time, he started the Protestant Reformation. My half sister, Mary Tudor, (you might know her as "Bloody Mary") was a Catholic. But I am a protesant. In fact, I have just set up the church of England. A Bible is now placed in every church! Imagine! For the first time in almost a thousand years, the Bible will be available to the common man! My people are thronging to church to hear the Bible read. (pause) Yes, the times are changing. My good friend, Sir Walter Raligh, has even started a colony in the New World. Since they call me the "Virgin Queen", it's called Virginia. Sir Raliegh has also found an island to settle on. They call it Roanoke.
Narrator: There were more choices, but people were not free to worship as they pleased. Nations were being divided by religion. Whatever religion the ruler was, had to be your religion, too. This was known as the state church. You even had to tithe to the state church - a "Tithe Tax". Dissention grew as Independents, Separatists and Puritans, rebelled against this heavy rule and longed for more freedom.
King James I: The year is 1604. Queen Elizabeth died five years ago, leaving no heir to the English throne. I was James the Sixth, ruling in Scotland when she died. I am a descendant of England's King Henry the Seventh. My mother was Mary, Queen of Scots, or Mary Stuart. I am a Protestant king, and I rule in both England and Scotland. The Presbyterians in Scotland were giving me quite a hard time! (pound fist) I rule by Divine Right! I answer to God alone! The religious battles exist here in England, too; but I will conform those so-called (draw quotes in air) "Puritans" or I will harry them out of this land! Even though the church of England has left Rome, they still do everything in Latin. They still sing in L atin, and they still read the Latin scriptures. My first task will be a good translation of the Holy Scriptures, in good old English. I have already gathered the most learned men to work on this task. Perhaps, it will one day be known as the (wryly pat self on chest) King James Version! Well, things are coming along in the New World. I must find the lost collony of Roanoke. No one has been able to find them - they seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth! But my London Company, they are even now founding (pat self on chest again) Jamestown. The men are having a bit of trouble. I hope my captain, John Smith, can straighten them out!
Narrator: Like the state curches of various nations, colonies were being divided by religion. King James gave charters to different groups, desiring to get their influence out of England.
Pilgrim: The year is1620. Why do all of these nations have state churches? Each and every ruler claims to be the head of the government, and the head of the church. King James wants us to go to the Church of England. I am a Seperatist. I want to separate from the Church of England! The king has given us permission to go to America on the Mayflower. (with humor) Hmmmmn. I think he's trying to get rid of us!
Narrator: Although the Pilgrims were not all Puritans, they were soon swallowed up in the
Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Clark got a charter for Rhode Island for the Baptists, William Penn founded Pennsylvania primarily for Quakers, and Maryland was founded as a haven for Roman Catholics.Many colonies were settled, and not all for religious reasons. While these colonies were free from the king's religion, many still had only one religion. Everyone in that colony had to agree, and never change their minds.
New World Colonist: The year is 1640. I am a colonist in the New World, and this is my son, John (holding baby bundle). I used to be a Puritan, but the Puritans do not want to seperate from the Church of England, they just want to purify it. After studying my Bible, I am now a Baptist, but I live in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Everyone must be a Puritan to live here! My neighbor was visited by Obadiah Holmes, a Baptist preacher. Last week my neighbor was really sick, and Pastor Holmes wanted to pray with him. Pastor Holmes was ordered to pay a fine for praying for my neighbor! When he refused, he was publically whipped! We are ordered to pay a tithe to the Puritan Church - but they teach that babies can be sprinkled for salvation. I cannot support that! I could be banished at any time from my home! My house will be siezed, sold, and the money will be given to the Puritan church! There are rewards for anyone who turns in a Baptist or a Quaker....... but I will trust God. Last year, they actually siezed my own son, and forcefully baptized him! He was only eight weeks old!
Narrator: More religious freedom was available, but different states still had forced relicion. They still had mandatory tithes, paid to the colony and divided among the state churches and pastors. People began to realize that they were continuing the oppression many had fled from in Europe. Non-Baptists like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison began defending Baptists, and all those who suffered from religious persecution. A great lawyer, Patrick Henry, was a powerful defender of Baptists and made it known that he would defend any Baptist preacher at no cost. The next step towards religious freedom came on July 4, 1776; America declared independence from Britain with the Declaration of Independence.
Group Two: recites the first part of the "Declaration of Independence".
Patrick Henry: Hello! The year is 1776. I am Patrick Henry. "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Welcome to Virginia! I work in the Continental Congress. What an amazing time to live; during the birth of a new nation. And I am working hard to set up laws for this land. Contrary to what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would tell you, I am fighting against religious persecution. But those Baptists don't know when to quit! I have finally reached a compromise. All four state churches of Virginia will be recognized. (point to chalkboard with each church) The old Church of England, which is now called Episcopal; John Calvin's old Church of Scotland, which we call Reformed, or Presbyterian; the Puritans, also known as the Congregationalists; and the Baptists. Sadly, I could not get them to recognize the church of Germany (known as the Lutherans) or the Catholics. But at least these four groups will be free. And best of all, the tithe tax will be split four ways; the Baptists will enjoy a great share of financial riches, much more money than they had through "free-will" offerings. But are those stubborn Baptists happy? Oh no, not they! They're fighting against me as I try to help them! (hold head in hands) They.... don't understand. (knock - knock) Yes?
Messanger: You won!
Patrick Henry: I won?! I am now governor of Virginia?
Messanger: Yes, Governor!
Patrick Henry: Great news! I have won the election for Governor! I must leave Congress, immediately!
Narrator: With Patrick Henry's eloquence, the first two votes had passed. Only one more vote, and the four-way church split would be law. But without the new Governor's strong speech, the third and final vote was lost. The idea of separation of church and state was a new one. Even in the newly formed nation, the practice of a state church died hard. The Constitution, and it's ammendments, finally provided freedom of religion.
Group Three: recites "Preamble to the Constitution" and "First Amendment"
Group Four leads in song: "My Country 'tis of Thee" (all join).