By Chris Hutton
The News Station
In the 1640s, New England had a peculiar problem: “Something close to a bestiality panic,” historian John Murrin wrote. Teenagers were whipped, and at least four men — one each from the Plymouth, New Haven, Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies — were publicly hanged after being found guilty. The peculiar problem plaguing the New England colonies wasn’t bestiality. The problem was the thick book preachers, and many elected officials, as well as many evangelicals, demanded stoic adherence to as the moral code for the masses: the Bible.
“Adherent to an unrepentantly harsh Old Testament legal system, officials in New England set low evidentiary standards for cases involving capital crimes,” Daniel Crown writes. “To justify the ugliness of this reality, and to protect their belief in the infallibility of scripture, magistrates aspired toward consistency in their application of Biblical justice.”
The strict, and often unforgiving, nature of our uniquely American criminal justice systems — federal, state, local, back alley, front lawn, etc. — were established before our nation was even a nation. This was evident as supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol while invoking the name of the Lord, and it continues to be there for anyone to see — well, those who actually want to see it — now that the Biden administration is in charge of Washington.
America has a complicated to twisted habit of mixing religion and the law. Those Puritanical missteps — the constitutionally forbidden merging of church and state — still linger throughout these United States today, though they’re now repackaged for a contemporary audience.
Picture: Boris23 (talk · contribs), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons