Mar. 06, 2023

HARRISBURG – Today, Rep. Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster/Berks) and 14 other legislators gathered in a filled Capitol Rotunda to memorialize the day 342 years ago when King Charles II granted the Charter of Pennsylvania to William Penn to settle a debt owed to his father.

“Penn welcomed settlers of all faiths to Pennsylvania as each of the other American colonies had established an official church, while Penn had not,” Zimmerman said. “This charter allowed William Penn to realize his vision of religious tolerance for all. Pennsylvania became a safe haven for practitioners of alternative religions looking to escape the crushing intolerance of the English Church and Crown – Quakers, Huguenots, Mennonites, Amish, Lutherans and more.”

During the Enlightenment, or “The Great Age of Reason,” forms of government such as the “divine right of kings, in European history, a political doctrine that asserted kings derived their authority from God slowly began to give way to idea of individual rights of man.

“Drawing from this new way of political thinking, Penn rejected models of government which forced laws on citizens against their will and instead emphasized self-government for the common man. This new land was for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,” said Zimmerman.

Each member present read portions of the charter until the entire document had been read aloud. The lawmakers participating were:

• Sen. Cris Dush
• Rep. Stephanie Borowicz
• Rep. Barb Gleim
• Rep. Joe D’Orsie
• Rep. Tim O’Neil
• Rep. David Rowe
• Rep. Kathy Rapp
• Rep. Russ Diamond
• Rep. Eric Nelson
• Rep. John Schlegel
• Rep. Dallas Kephart
• Rep. Wendy Fink
• Rep. Tom Jones
• Rep. Joe Hamm
• Rep. Rob Kauffman
• Rep. Perry Stambaugh
• Rep. Jake Banta

The ceremony included an opening prayer by Native American leader Mary Faus, as Penn had sought the friendship and inclusion of the Lenape and Delaware tribes who were already here in his great experiment. Abby Abildness of Healing Tree International was instrumental in organizing the event.

The original document on parchment is on display at the State Museum in Harrisburg, but due to the damage light can cause, it is only displayed once a year. The Penn Charter will remain on display at the museum until 1 p.m. Friday, March 17, when the documents will be returned to the vault for another year.

Representative Dave Zimmerman
99th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Charles Lardner
717.260-6443 /