During the Reformation era the Establishment Principle effectively entailed that only members of the established church of a state could vote and hold civil office, but is this fact understood by those who are in churches which adhere to the original Westminster Standards and Three Forms of Unity? Is it understood that until recent centuries those in denominations and churches outside the church especially recognized (ie, established) by the civil government were not allowed to vote or hold civil office? (That meant Baptists and other denominations were not allowed to vote and hold civil office in reformed states.) Is it understood that a primary reason that various Presbyterian and Reformed churches revised their Reformation standards was because they came to disagree with the political philosophy entailed in the Establishment Principle as it was understood in the Reformation era?
Consider these sources of information-
“The idea of established churches followed the traditions of England and Europe, whose churches were supported by the royal governments and their subjects. The colonial governments taxed citizens to support the churches. In order to serve public office, one had to make a statement of faith in accordance with the established church.
“In the 1740s, if you were a Baptist in Virginia and you
wanted to run for office, you couldn’t. You had to be a member of the Anglican
Church,” Goff said.
New England was not a theocracy; but to hold public office in New England, you had to be a member of the Congregationalist Church, Goff said. The laws didn’t come directly from the church, but the church was the gatekeeper as to who got into government and who made decisions.”
“For over 150 years of the colonial era, there were established churches, just as there had been in Europe for centuries before. In different colonies, there were different established churches. In Massachusetts it was the Congregational Church. In Virginia, it was the Anglican Church. As a general rule during this period, you had to be a member in good standing of the established church to vote and hold public office. What's more, one had to swear a Christian oath, of one sort or another.”
“The House of Commons itself remained essentially unchanged from mediaeval times until 1832. It was composed partly of members representing the counties, elected by adult males who met a property qualification, and partly of members representing boroughs, elected by adult males on variety of franchises ranging from highly democratic to oligarchic. Many large cities were not represented at all. Non-Anglicans were excluded from Parliament until the 19th century.”
It is important that members of churches which adhere to the original Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity understand that they teach the doctrine of the Establishment Principle, and what that entailed. Thus of us who profess to adhere to the original Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity must be honest in our confession of belief.