It is a little paradoxical that letter writer John H. White should be using John Winthrop as a model of Christian charity to complain about a presumed lack of discourse in the public square due to secular elitism (Secular Elites Should Not Have a Monopoly on Public Discourse,” April 1). I say this because Mr. White ignores the fact that Winthrop’s Massachusetts colony was a shining example of theological elitism limiting public discourse.
Early Massachusetts limited the speech and rights of Catholics, Baptists, Quakers, Episcopalians and Jews. Religious dissenters were offered choices of exile, imprisonment, torture, even death for a third return to the colony after banishment. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson are the most notable examples of the lack of tolerance to free speech and belief in Massachusetts.
Later, Baptist ministers like John Leland and Isaac Backus would challenge the lack of free discourse in Massachusetts’ public square. Massachusetts would be the last state to disestablish the state from the Congregationalist denomination in 1833. Seems that Massachusetts, for the longest time, had taken the shining light of free speech and religious liberty and hidden it under the basket of theocracy.
The writer is a native of Mount Pleasant.