Baptists gave America the Bill of Rights

By Staff
Jul 3, 2013

From 1787 to 1789, the states of the newly formed American nation debated whether or not to replace the original Articles of Confederation with a new Constitution. Baptists in Virginia and other states were generally opposed to the new Constitution because it contained nothing to prohibit the formation of state churches. Baptists had experienced serious persecution by the established churches in Virginia and Massachusetts during colonial times, and they were worried about history repeating itself.

Virginia Baptists wrote to George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson to express their concerns. Without Baptist support, Virginia would not pass the new Constitution, killing its chances for adoption. So Madison asked John Leland, 1 a leading Virginian pastor, to give him in writing the specific grievances of Baptists. Leland replied with ten objections. Madison then “struck a deal” with Virginian Baptists promising, in exchange for their support, to present their objections as amendments to the Constitution. Baptists gave their support, Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution, and the Constitution became the supreme law of the United States. Immediately after ratification, Madison presented ten amendments to the Constitution (derived from Leland’s ten objections), and they are now known as the Bill of Rights.

So who is most responsible for the American guarantee for religious liberty? Historians from Joseph Dawson to Leon McBeth answer, “John Leland and the Baptists” (Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, p. 283). Sometime during the cookouts, the ballgames, and the fireworks, let us remember to thank God for the legacy of our Baptist forefathers.

Happy Fourth of July!

This article republished with permission. Originally published on June 29, 2013 by Dr. Kenneth Keathley, Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Keathley blogs at his Web site, Theology for the Church.

  1. The ERLC’s Washington office (called “Leland House”) is named for Pastor Leland.^

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, Christian Citizenship, Church and State, Religious Liberty,

You May Also Like

Russell Moore to Appear on Fox News Easter Sunday to Discuss Religious Persecution

By Elizabeth Bristow - Apr 3, 2015

Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is scheduled to appear on Fox News, Easter Sunday April 5 at 1:50 PM ET for a segment on religious persecution. He will join host Shannon Bream and a panel of religious leaders to discuss the Easter message and how it coincides with the persecution of Jews and Christians alike in the Middle East.…

Read More

Planned Parenthood Customized Abortions for Fetal Tissue Procurement

By Joe Carter - Aug 19, 2015

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released the third episode in a documentary web series and their seventh video on Planned Parenthood’s selling of aborted fetal tissue. In this latest video, a former Blood and Tissue Procurement Technician for StemExpress, a company that buys tissue from Planned Parenthood, relates a chilling story of harvesting an intact brain from a late-term male fetus whose heart was still beating after the abortion.…

Read More
Serving in church Internet freedom and the First Freedom