This Week's Story

William Penn goes to prison five times, rather than abandon his faith in God and freedom of religion.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Cost of Freedom, part two

You might say I was a stubborn fool, because I turned my back on being politically correct and powerful. I don’t agree with you.  I was born into a world of privilege.  My father was Admiral Sir William Penn.  I did nothing to earn what I had.  My class of people treated everyone else as inferior.  We insisted that people believe as we did religiously and politically.  It became sickening to me, especially as I spent time with Christian Quakers.

I was 22 at my first arrest.  When the police took me, I was in a secret religious meeting of Quakers.  I knew I was breaking the law, but I assumed I wouldn’t get into trouble, because of whom I was.  Police broke up the meeting and took twenty of us to the city’s mayor.  He was shocked when he saw me and apologized.  He ordered my immediate release.  I explained, “Yes, I am a man of wealth and my father is Sir William Penn.  But I am a Quaker, as are my friends.  I wish to legally represent my friends as I have legal training.”  The mayor ordered me into prison.  Since then I have been in prison four more times.  The last time I was 46 years old.

After my first time in jail my father told me, “I do not want to see

you again. You will not be in my will or inherit the family estate.” My privileges and responsibilities as a nobleman were gone, but I could use my education and contacts to help Quakers.  Their lives were difficult, as the English government was making cruel laws against them.   Quakers did not practice the outward traditions of the Church of England.  They were convinced that the government should not control religion. They believed that God cared most about each person’s inner relationship with Him and living in truth.

 The new laws were legalizing cruelty against religious nonconformists.  One law declared that nobody could have a public office unless he was a member of the Church of England.  Another law stated that no one could meet for a worship service, unless the person went to the Church of England.   It was illegal to have anything to do with Quakers. They were to be outcasts.  Penalties included imprisonment, endless fines, being sent to the West Indies and sold as a slave, beatings, and death.  One time the heads of twelve Puritans were put on poles around the city of London.

One of my arrests happened when I went to a Quaker meeting place and found it closed by the government. I suggested to the Quaker friends with me, “Let’s pray at the street corner.” We did so quietly, but police took me to Newgate Prison.  Supposedly we were illegally meeting and rioting.  I argued with the court recorder because he would not state what law we were offending.    Four times the jury refused to give a verdict of guilty.  The judge was furious!  He fined and imprisoned the jury. Four of the jurors later sued the judge and court recorder.

I wrote a pamphlet called The Great Case for Liberty of Conscience.  I argued that a person must have choices to be free. Otherwise all people are hurt.

A place was needed where people lived with fair laws and freedom of religion for everyone. I asked King Charles II to give me a tract of land between Maryland and New Jersey in America.  The same day he received my request he approved it, giving me 45,000 square miles.  I was grateful to God that there was hope for a land where people could worship God freely.  To me the possibilities were unlimited.

This is Barbara Steiner anticipating the closing episode of “The Cost of Freedom.”  Please check out thisweeksstory.com.

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