Proof positive that the First Amendment's guarantees of religious freedom don't apply to anyone unless the government approves. Back in the late 1800s to early 1900s, Obed Marsh, a wealthy merchant, was converted to the worship of a pagan god of the sea while sailing in the South Seas. Upon his return to his home in the small coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, he established a church called the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

Within a few years, most of the residents of Innsmouth were members of Marsh's church, thanks to a combination of Marsh's charisma, the gold he brought from the South Sea, and peer pressure from other church members. Marsh promised that anyone who joined his church would be guaranteed vast amounts of wealth, as well as eternal life.

In the late 1920s, rumors surfaced that Marsh was running his church, like many cult leaders, as a front for other crimes, including smuggling, forced conversions, and even murder. However, instead of arresting the leaders of the cult and those who had perpetrated crimes, agents of the U.S. Treasury and the Justice Department swept into Innsmouth in February of 1928 and arrested everyone in town.

No trials or hearings were held for anyone, but almost everyone was incarcerated for the rest of their lives, either in mental institutions or maximum security prisons. All property, both real estate and personal effects, was seized by the government; none of it has ever been returned. Even today, after government officials have publicly apologized for racial crimes and inequities from decades past, the United States government still refuses to apologize or even acknowledge the crimes committed against the citizens of Innsmouth.

The message is loud and clear: the government does not believe that the First Amendment applies to everyone -- just to the most powerful religions. It's only a matter of time before they stage another crackdown on another minority religion -- maybe Wiccans, maybe atheists, maybe Seventh Day Adventists...

Research: "The Shadow over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.