The Old Deluder Act and America’s Literacy
February 16, 2016
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The Old Deluder Act
From its inception, America was a highly literate society, and its literacy was because of the Bible.

“The Puritans strongly supported education. Literacy, they believed, is necessary in order to read and understand the Bible and its principles. Literacy and education were also important to them because a civil republican/democratic self-government require informed, knowledgeable voters and representatives who understand the laws of the colony. Literacy and education also provide communities with competent citizens of various professions. The Puritans, therefore, wanted to spread knowledge to everyone for the benefit of the community” (Angela Kamrath,
The Miracle of America).

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, said, “... the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments” (
Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1798).

The Massachusetts School Law of 1642 required all children to be taught to read and write by their parents or masters of apprenticeship. The children were to be able “to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country.”

The Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony went further, requiring that every town and community with over 50 families set up schools and hire schoolmasters. The goal was so that “the old deluder, Satan [would not] keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures.” The particular fear was that the Catholic Church would be able to deceive an illiterate people as she had been accustomed to doing in Europe. The law began as follows: “It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times keeping them in an unknown tongue [Latin], so in these later times by persuading from the use of tongues [illiteracy], that so at least the true sense and meaning of the Original might be clouded with false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers; and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavours: it is therefore ordered by this Court and Authority thereof; that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to each all such children as shall resort to him to write and read...”

The New England Code of 1655 required that children be made “able duly to read the Scriptures ... and in some competent measure to understand the main grounds and principles of Christian Religion necessary to salvation.”

- Receive these reports by email


Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family. You may also post parts of reports and/or entire reports to websites, blogs, etc as long as you give proper credit (citation). A link to the original report is very much appreciated as the reports are frequently updated and/or expanded. Things we do not want copied and distributed are "Store" items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18). Questions?

Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.

Offering: Offerings are welcome if you care to make one. If you have been helped and/or blessed by our material offerings can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see:

Bible College
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Bible College