A Brief History
On January 21, 1535, in the aftermath of “The Affair of the Placards,” French Protestants were burned at the stake in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Starting in October of 1534, in the largest French cities, Protestant activists had been hanging up posters (placards) casting aspersions on the Catholic Church, the most gutsy move being the hanging of such a poster on King Franςois I’s bedroom door!
This apparently was the last straw for the frightened King who reaffirmed his Catholic faith as the religion of the land and decided to throw out any last tolerance of the Protestants.
Accordingly, rewards were offered for the capture of the perpetrators, and the public responded eagerly, turning in as many known Protestant activists as they could.
The subsequent public burning of these Protestants at the stake in front of the main cathedral of France certainly made it quite clear that freedom of religion was not to be on the immediate political agenda.
Incidents such as this and the all too common anti-Jewish pogroms throughout Europe in the Middle Ages til relatively recently certainly show how extraordinary and possibly even revolutionary it when the Founding Fathers of the United States made freedom of religion a basic right.
In the meantime, European countries have come on board with the freedom of religion concept, but unfortunately many of today’s Muslim countries show little tolerance for any religion other than the specific brand of Islam common there.
One “religion” that continues to suffer a lack of tolerance in the United States is atheism, and no major politician is able to be elected without at least pretending to believe in God. As the numbers of self-admitted atheists in the U.S. grows, especially among celebrities and scientists, perhaps even atheism will be accepted as a mainstream belief someday. At least no one is getting burned at the stake for it!
Question for students (and subscribers): Is it ever justifiable to burn someone at the stake? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Frieda, Leonie. King Francis I of France. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008.