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This site aspires to do more than promote my forthcoming book (May 7)  — though it does do that (have you pre-ordered your copy yet?).  It offers resources and provocations about the history of religious freedom in America — including astonishing images and a documents (see the topics on the right rail).  Enjoy!   

George W. Bush’s Efforts to Dampen Anti-Muslim Anger After 9/11

George W. Bush’s Efforts to Dampen Anti-Muslim Anger After 9/11

When false rumors spread in the 1830s that Catholic priests had imprisoned a young woman in a Boston convent, a mob came and burned down the building. When false rumors spread during World War II that Jehovah’s Witnesses were plotting with the Nazis, Witnesses were beaten and castrated. When false rumors spread in 1838 that Mormons were plotting to take Missourians’ land, they were massacred. So when the accurate news was reported in the days and weeks after September 11,…

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The Religious Freedom of Slaves

The Religious Freedom of Slaves

African spirituality and Islam are purged, creating a “spiritual holocaust.” Discussions of religious liberty before the Civil War rarely consider the status of African Americans for an understandable but perverse reason: their subjugation was so thorough that the loss of their religious freedom seemed to be the least of their problems. But if anything, depriving them of their faith as they tried to endure slavery was especially cruel. While Americans have held up religious liberty as sacred, we have repeatedly…

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“An Enemy Inside Our Perimeter”

“An Enemy Inside Our Perimeter”

A major attack on religious freedom is launched against American Muslims, accelerated by a new kind of media and a new kind of leader. Excerpted from Sacred Liberty Earlier in American history, those who wanted to suppress a particular religion had to confront a challenging question: Doesn’t doing that violate the First Amendment? They often gave a brazen response: no, it doesn’t, because the despised minority faith in question wasn’t really a religion, at least not in an appropriate way….

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The “War” on “Christianity”

The “War” on “Christianity”

Evangelical Christians go from “moral majority” to persecuted minority. Adapted from Sacred Liberty “Christianity is under tremendous siege,” said Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. “The Christians are being treated horribly because we have nobody to represent the Christians.” Trump pledged that with his election, “the Christians” would at long last have a champion. “As long as I am your president no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your…

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What the Religious Right Gets Right

What the Religious Right Gets Right

Their cries of persecution are exaggerated and mischievous — but they also have some legitimate concerns In Sacred Liberty, I offer loads of examples for how the modern claims of persecution by religious conservatives are exaggerated — and how Donald Trump has weaponized religious freedom concerns to sew division and beat up opponents. But it’s also important to understand that traditional American Christians are not hallucinating when they express concerns about their own religious status and rights. Look at it…

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The Alabama Law Bans Abortion — Except if It’s a Jewish Or Muslim Doctor?

The Alabama Law Bans Abortion — Except if It’s a Jewish Or Muslim Doctor?

The logical conclusion of the current trend toward religious exemptions There may be a strange, implied loophole in the Alabama anti-abortion law – that abortions can be performed … if the doctor is Jewish or Muslim. Here’s the logic.  We are in a moment of history when the courts are leaning in the direction of providing religious exemptions to secular laws.  This was the thrust of the Sisters of the Poor case, when a group of nuns said that they…

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The Alabama Anti-Abortion Law Does Not Violate Separation of Church & State

The Alabama Anti-Abortion Law Does Not Violate Separation of Church & State

Responding to the passage of the Alabama anti-abortion law, Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand made a religious freedom argument. “One of the tenets of our democracy is that we have a separation of church and state, and under no circumstances are we supposed to be imposing our faith on other people,” she said. “And I think this is an example of that effort.” There may be many problems with the Alabama law banning abortion but violating separation of church and…

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Martyrs of Religious Freedom in America

Martyrs of Religious Freedom in America

Thousands of Americans protested for religious freedom — and some gave their lives. Here are a few that we know about. These descriptions are excerpted from Sacred Liberty Mary Dyer By modern standards, Dyer was no groovy freethinker. Like many of the other Puritans who came to America seeking religious sustenance, she was a serious Bible-following Christian (how else to explain her naming her son Mahershalalhashbaz, after a line in Isaiah 8:1?). But at twenty-five, she fell in with a…

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Kill the Indian, Christianize The Man

Kill the Indian, Christianize The Man

The efforts to help Native Americans include the campaign to ban their spiritual practices and convert their children to Christianity. Adapted from Sacred Liberty In 1866, the “good guys” were the Christians who merely wanted to annihilate the Native Americans’ religion. It was a strange turning point in white America’s relationship with the Indians. The Native Americans had been pushed farther west. Disease and war had dramatically reduced their numbers. The buffalo population had been so decimated that the Indian…

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The Witnesses

The Witnesses

A tiny, reviled, and obnoxious American religion forces the nation to define what religious liberty really means. Excerpted from Sacred Liberty Robert Fischer was trying to escape from Litchfield, Illinois, when the mob caught up with him. The crowd pulled him out of his car and started destroying his Jehovah’s Witnesses literature. It was June 16, 1940, war hysteria was mounting, and the residents were livid that Fischer and the other Witnesses refused, as a matter of conscience, to salute…

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