The Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 mandated freedom of worship for Christians who believed in the Holy Trinity. It was enacted to protect Catholics and other Christians whose religions did not align with Anglicanism, which was the main religion in England and the colonies. Also known as the Act Concerning Religion, the act was a protection for the Christians from prosecution by non-Christians.
Although it was a huge step toward religious freedom, the law was severely limited. Those who harassed Christians or didn’t follow the Ten Commandments were punishable by strict fines or seizure of land, and anyone who denied the divinity of Christ was punished with death.
The act had a lasting influence for future religious laws in the colonies, as well as in the United States. It was the first legal guarantee of religious freedom and set the precedent to keep church and state separate. It also helped inspire the First Amendment of the Constitution.