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Nonconformist Schools, the Schism Act, and the Limits of Toleration in England’s Confessional State

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Chapter Summary

Following the Restoration and the Act of Uniformity (1662), the Anglican Church widely assumed that any form of religious dissent was schismatic and enforced religious uniformity with legal sanctions that oblige one to think of England at the time as a unitary, confessional state. This chapter explores one aspect of the longer quest of Nonconformity for a legitimate, separate status of individual congregations and how that new status bore on a national, confessing church and state. The repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts in 1719 has been quite thoroughly studied, but surprisingly little attention has been given to the controversy leading up to the Schism Act and how it related to the Toleration Act. The chapter examines the public debate over Nonconformist schools and looks in passing at the debates in Parliament and Convocation in an effort to estimate the perceived threat to the toleration of the Dissenters.

Keywords: confessional state; England; nonconformist schools; Schism Act; Toleration Act



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