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Religious Freedom Symposium

November 18, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Religious Freedom Symposium

Saturday, November 18th, 2023, 2:00pm

This three-part program was created for Gloucester’s 400th Anniversary Celebration to share the story of how the Rev. John Murray with his Gloucester Universalists followers in the 1780s set a key precedent for the Constitutional separation of church and state. The opening is a video that tells the story about how Murray’s followers refused to pay Gloucester taxes in 1782 to support the town’s Church system. Their valuables were seized so they had to sue the state to get them back. In 1786 they won a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that said “a free populace cannot be taxed to support a state church.” Rev. Murray was in close contact with John Adams, so this news traveled quickly to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, providing a key precedent the First Amendment. The second segment features a monologue by Charles Nazarian, acting as the Rev. John Murray, who magically returns to the Meetinghouse, sharing details about what happened around the famous court case. He will also explain how a second court case compelled Massachusetts to legally recognize diverse churches as well as Jewish synagogues. The third segment will feature a panel discussion about why the guarantee of religious freedom matters as much today as it did in 1787 and how it remains an essential pillar of our democracy in this period of corrosive politics and culture wars. A reception with light refreshments will follow at the Sargent House Museum, featuring the engraved silver pitcher that was confiscated from the home of Epes Sargent in 1782. The museum is the elegant home of Judith Sargent Murray and her husband the Rev. John Murray, featuring exquisite family portraits, furnishings and possessions.


Parking on the Green is limited to vehicles with disability registration plates or placards. 

After 6, parking in downtown Gloucester is free and there are several lots nearby. When parking in and around the area, please make sure not to block our neighbor’s driveways.


November 18, 2023
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation
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Gloucester Meetinghouse
10 Church Street
Gloucester, MA 01930 United States
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