Religious toleration in the British North American colonies prior to 1700 existed in varying degrees. There were three main subsets of colonies: Northern, middle, and southern. Generally speaking, there was more toleration and less care as one went down the line from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. In parts of America; fines, banishment, and even death were penalties for not following the standard religion of the colony. There were exceptions to this rule in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania where they chiefly believed in freedom of religion. Religion was zealously stressed and followed up north, while the middle was of tolerance, and in the south it was a lackadaisical part of society. .
The least amount of religious freedom occurred in the northern colonies. In 1620, the Puritan settlers landed in Massachusetts. This colony was undoubtedly a Puritan state with no interference from any other religion. William Bradford, the governor of Massachusetts displayed his adherence to the Puritan faith and stated, "non-Puritan settlers on their particular might corrupt his godly experiment in the wilderness (B-pg. 44)." Those who were not Puritans were persecuted with fines, floggings, and banishment. Governor Winthrop lauded, "we shall be a city upon a hill, a beacon to humanity (B-pg. 45)." Another Northern colony established prior to 1700 was Connecticut. Thomas Hooker founded Connecticut around 1636. A flourishing settlement sprang up at New Haven in 1638. Puritans, who set up an even closer church-government alliance than in Massachusetts, founded New Haven. The Puritan Bay colonists believed that they had a covenant with God; and those who were not Puritans did not have a covenant with God and ultimately did not maintain the right to live in this colony. .
There was a lone exception to the strictness of the northern colonies and that was Rhode Island. Roger Williams fled to Rhode Island in 1636. He set up a Baptist church and established complete freedom of religion, even for Jews and Catholics.