Act of Religion
Enacted and made at a General Sessions of the said Assembly held at St Marys on the one and twentieth day of April Anno Dom. 1649 as followeth viz:
An Act Concerning Religion
Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Commonwealth matters concerning Religion and the honor of God ought in the first place to bee taken, into serious consideration and endeavoured to bee settled. Be it therefore ordered and enacted by the Right Honorable Cecilius Lord Baron of Baltimore absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province with the advise and consent of this Generall Assembly. That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shall be punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires. And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning blessed Virgin Marv the Mother of Our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the sume of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such person soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfying of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender Or Offenders Shall be publiquely whipt and bee imprisoned during the pleasure, of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieut. or chief Governor of' this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender Or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit tenne Pound or the value thereof to bee levyed as aforesaid, or in case Such offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattells within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publiquely and severely whipt and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and bee for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.
And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth upon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting residing traffiqueing trading or commerceing within this Province or within any the Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian popish priest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist Anabaptist, Brownist. Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and loose the some or tenne shillings sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed on the goods and chattells of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachfull words are or shall be spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, But if Such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speake any such reproachfull words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattells sufficient and overt within this Province to bee taken to satisfie the penalty aforesaid or that the same bee not other speedily satisfyed, that then the person or persons soe offending shall be publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without bail or maineprise untill he she or they respectively shall satisfy the party soe offended or greived by such reproachfull Language by asking him or her respectively forgivenes publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate or chief Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shall be given.
And be it further likewise Enacted by the Authority and consent aforesaid that every person and persons within this Province that shall at any time hereafter prophane the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday by frequent swearing, drunkennes or by any uncivill or disorderly recreation or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require it shall for every such first offence forfeit 2s 6d sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s sterling or the value thereof, and for the third offence and soe for every time lie shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s sterling or the value thereof. And in case such offender and offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattells within this Province to any of the said Penalties respectively hereby imposed for prophaning the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday as aforesaid, That in Every such case the party see offending shall for the first and second offence in that kinde be imprisoned till he or she shall publickly in open Court before the cheife Commander Judge or Magistrate, of that County Towne or precinct where such offence shall be committed acknowledg the Scandall and offence he hath in that respect given against God and the good and civill Government of this Province. And for the third offence and for every time after shall also bee publickly whipt.
And whereas the inforceing of the conscience in matters of Religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous Consequence in those commonwealthes where it hath been practised, and for the more quiet and peaceable government of this Province, and the better to preserve mutuall Love and amity amongst the Inhabitants thereof. Be it Therefore also by the Lord Proprietary with the advise and consent of this Assembly Ordeyned ? enacted (except as in this present Act is before Declared and sett forth) that no person or persons whatsoever within this Province, or the Islands, Ports, Harbors, Creeks, or havens thereunto belonging professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any ways troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging nor any way compelled to the belief or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent, so as they be not unfaithfull to the Lord Proprietary, or molest or conspire against the civill Government, established or to bee established in this Province under him or his heires. And that all ? every person and persons that shall presume Contrary to this Act and the true intent and meaning thereof directly or indirectly either in person or estate willfully to wrong disturbe trouble or molest any person whatsoever within this Province professing to believe in Jesus Christ for or ill respect of his or her religion or the free exercise thereof within this Province other than is provided for in this Act that such person or persons so offending, shall be compelled to pay trebble damages to the party so wronged or molested, and for every such offence shall also forfeit 20s sterling in money or the Value thereof, half thereof for the use of the Lord Proprietary, and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, and the other half for the use of the party so wronged or molested as a aforesaid. Or if the party so offending as aforesaid shall refuse or bee unable to recompense the party sowronged, or to satisfy such fine or forfeiture, then such Offender shall be severely punished by publick whipping ? imprisonment during pleasure of the Lord Proprietary, or his Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being without baile or maineprise . . .
From: Prof. Bruce Dorsey, Swarthmore