February 7, 1478: Thomas More, lord chancellor of England during the English Reformation, is born. Though he idealized freedom of religion in Utopia (1516), he supported the punishment of heretics and Protestants like Martin Luther and William Tyndale. He retired from office rather than acknowledge Henry VIII's divorce and was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church (see issue 16: William Tyndale).
February 7, 1818 (traditional date): Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland. After escaping to freedom, he became the most prominent of the black abolitionists and eventually became the first black to hold high political office, as consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (see issue 62: Bound For Canaan).
February 7, 1938: After years of being closely watched by Nazi secret police, Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller is put on trial. He was subsequently confined in a concentration camp, but he survived and went on to hold a leadership role in the World Council of Churches from 1948-1968 (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
March 24, 1208: After England's irreligious King John opposed his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Innocent III places Britain under an interdict. Innocent had all religious services canceled, churches closed, and the dead were not given Christian burials until John surrendered. Soon after, the king signed the Magna Carta, in which the first article affirms "That the Church of England shall be free . . .
March 24, 1816: Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, age 71, preaches his last sermon. ...