The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Establishment, Part IV

Continued from Establishment, Part III

Researched, edited and assembled by Jim Allison

Background Commentary

"In recent discussions of religious freedom and Church-State separation in the United States attention has been so much centered constitutionally on the Bill of Rights that the importance of this Provision in the original Constitution as a bulwark of Church-State separation has been largely overlooked. As a matter of fact it was and is important in preventing religious tests for Federal office--a provision later extended to all the states. It went far in thwarting any State Church in the United States; for it would be almost impossible to establish such a Church, since no Church has more than a fifth of the population. Congress as constituted with men and women from all the denominations could never unite in selecting any one body for this privilege. This has been so evident from the time of the founding of the government that it is one reason why the First Amendment must be interpreted more broadly than merely as preventing the state establishment of religion which had already been made almost impossible."

Source of Information:
Church And State in The United States, VOLUME I, Anton Phelps Stokes, D.D., LL.D, Harper & Brothers Publishers (1950) page 527.

A look at data on religious affiliation in the eighteenth century indicates that the establishment of a national church or religion in the European style might have been next to impossible to achieve.

Denominational Percentages by Region, 1776,
Based on Number of Congregations
NEW ENGLAND (N = 1,039)
Congregationalist 63.0
Baptist 15.3
Episcopal 8.4
Presbyterian 5.5
Quaker 3.8
Other(1) 3.6
Presbyterian 24.6
Quaker 14.1
Episcopal 12.9
German Reformed 9.8
Dutch Reformed 8.9
Lutheran 8.6
Baptist 7.6
Roman Catholic 4.2
Methodist 3.8
Moravian 1.8
Congregationalist 0.3
Other(1) 3.1
Baptist 28.0
Episcopal 27.8
Presbyterian 24.9
Quaker 9.0
Lutheran 3,8
German Reformed 2.8
Methodist 1.4
Moravian 0.6
Congregationist 0.1
Roman Catholic 0.1
Other (1) 1.2
Source: See Table 2.2.
Note: Only 3,169 of Jernegan's 3,228 congregations could be located by colony.
(1) "Other" includes Separatist and Independent, Dunker, Mennonite, Huguenot, Sandemanian, and Jewish.

Percentage Congregationalist by Colony, 1776
Colony % Congregationalist
Massachusetts 71.6
Connecticut 64.2
New Hampshire 63.2
Rhode Island 17.2
Georgia 4.3
New York 1.8
South Carolina 1.2
New Jersey 0.4
Pennsylvania 0.0
Delaware 0.0
Maryland 0.0
Virginia 0.0
North Carolina 0.0
Source: See Table 2.2.

The "Source" referred to in both these tables appears in another table in The Churching of America 1776-1990. It states:

Source: The data in Table 2.2, 2.4, 2.5, and A.1 are based on a series of estimation procedures described in the text. The number of congregations is estimated from Paullin (1932) and Wers (1936, 1938, 1950, 1955); the number of members per congregation is estimated from existing denominational totals.

Please see the reference for additional information.

Source of Information:
The Churching of America 1776-1990. Winners and losers in our religions economy, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, (1994) Pages 25, 27, 29-30, 41.

Section 6. The Condition And Public Influence of The Churches During And Immediately After The Revolution

At the close of the colonial period there were something under three million persons in the thirteen colonies, of whom about one-sixth were slaves. Recent studies at the University of Chicago show somewhat over three thousand religious organizations or congregations, counting each church or chapel separately. These were divided about equally among New England, the Middle Atlantic States, and the South. The total (3,005) actually enumerated--about one thousand more than were estimated a decade ago 49--were thus distributed:
Congregationalists, mostly in New England 658
Presbyterians, largely in the middle colonies but becoming increasingly prominent in the South 543
Baptists, especially in Rhode island, the middle colonies, the Carolinas, and Virginia 498
Anglicans, mainly in the South and in the larger towns elsewhere 480
Quakers, mostly in Pennsylvania and North Carolina 298
German and Dutch Reformed, mainly in the middle colonies 251
Lutherans, largely in the middle colonies 151
Roman Catholics, mainly in the large Eastern towns and in Maryland 50
Miscellaneous minor groups
Congregationalist (Their power was only found in New England)21.13%
Presbyterian 18.33%
Baptist 16.96%
Episcopal 16.36%
Quaker 8.96%
All others 18.26%

Church And State in The United States, Vol. I Anson Phelps Stokes, D.D., LL.D Harper & Brothers, New York, (1950) page 273

This examination of the meaning of Establishment is continued in Establishment, Part V