Religious freedom existed throughout the British North American colonies prior to 1700. New England is an example of a section that was dominated by Puritan Separatists. An advocate of religious freedom named Roger Williams had a great influence on the colony of Rhode Island, as well as an athletic young Englishman named William Penn on the colony of Pennsylvania. All contributed to the existence of religious freedom. .
New England included the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Haven. The New Englanders were largely Puritan Separatists, who sought religious freedom. When the Church of England separated from Catholicism under Henry VIII, Protestantism flourished in England. Some Protestants, however, wanted complete separation from Catholicism and embraced Calvinism. These "Separatists" came to New England in hopes of finding religious freedom where they would be free to practice as they wished.
In 1636, with the help by friendly Indians, Roger Williams fled to the Rhode Island area. At Providence, Williams built a Baptist church and established complete freedom of religion. Williams's adoption of religious tolerance made Rhode Island more liberal than any of the other English settlements in the New World. Unwilling to special power of any sort, the courageous Rhode Islanders managed to achieve remarkable freedom.
William Penn, an English Quaker, left England on his first voyage to Pennsylvania. He wanted to see if he and his fellow Quakers could establish a new society based on wider freedoms than the Old World knew. He also wanted to see whether it was true that men and women were better and happier people for this freedom. Freedom of worship was guaranteed to all residents, but Penn was forced to deny Catholics and Jews the privilege of voting or holding office. Pennsylvania would then influence small Quaker settlements next door. .
Prior to 1700, colonies in British North America contained certain religious freedoms.