June 15, 1215: King John signs the Magna Carta, which begins, "The Church of England shall be free.
June 15, 1520: In the papal encyclical "Exsurge Domine," Leo X condemns Martin Luther on 41 of counts of heresy, branding him an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. After the encyclical, Luther's works were burned in Rome (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
July 26, 1603: James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England. Among his many acts affecting English religious life (it is he for whom the King James Version is named) was the issuing of the Book of Sports, approving sports on Sunday.
July 26, 1833: Having abolished the slave trade in 1807, Britain's House of Commons bans slavery itself. When William Wilberforce, who had spent most of his life crusading against slavery, heard the news, he said, "Thank God I have lived to witness [this] day." He ...