This document shows that in 1708, Ann Walker was granted permission by the government to attend the church of her choice -- the Church of England.
Prior to this Ann had experienced issues with her husband George, who was not a member of the Church of England and disapproved of Ann’s religious choice. Ann petitioned the government for permission to not only attend the church, but to also raise her children as members of her church. George countered this with a request to recognize his rights as the children’s father and head of household, which meant that he would have sole control over the children’s religious upbringing and education. The government decided that while Ann would be granted the freedom to attend whichever church she chose, George would be given control of the children’s religious education as part of “that authority over his Children that properly Belongs to Every Christian man." The only stipulation was that George would only retain control if he remained a practicing Christian.
While the Church of England was the established church during this time period, many Virginians practiced other religions and a child’s upbringing could differ greatly depending on what the family followed. Religion could be extremely divisive -- especially in the late 1700s, when entire livelihoods could be in jeopardy if someone followed the “wrong” religion.
Citation: Virginia (Colony), Colonial Papers, Petition of George Walker, 1708 April 24. Accession 36138. State government records collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Analyze: Do you think that it was right that the father was given sole control over his children's religious upbringing as long as he remained a practicing Christian? Should the children have been given a choice?
Analyze: What do you think that the differences would be for children brought up in different religions?
In Their Shoes: Imagine that you are Ann Walker and you are denied permission to attend the church of your choice. What would you do?