Reviews, Awards & Coverage

Reviews, Awards & Coverage

Wilbur Award — Best Nonfiction Religion Book of 2019

Religion News Association — Best Nonfiction Religion Book of 2019 (Finalist)

From the Religion News Association

The New York Times

New and Noteworthy. Religious freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment, is central to America’s identity. Waldman shows how remarkable that is, and how tenuous. Full review

The Economist

“A powerful account of American religion since the colonial period…This insightful study is grounds for guarded optimism. It shows that the advance of decency has been steady, heartening—and fragile.”  Full review.

Nova Religio

“The most sobering and disquieting book I have read in many years.” The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

Journal of American History

“Riveting.” From the official academic journal of the Organization of American Historians.

Journal of Religion & Education

“Quietly brilliant… For educators and administrators, the book is a look at America that is often both known and unknown, being one of depth that few scholars and individuals alike know fully… It should be considered an essential read for those who wish to understand a broader landscape of diversity and inclusion across America.” Review by J. Cody Nielson

Church & State Magazine

A remarkable showcase of the rapidity of change in a relatively short period of time…. Extremely relevant to the modern era… there may be no better time to turn to this book and remind ourselves of the origin, implementation, subversion and, hope­fully, ultimate triumph of separation of church and state.” By Zachary Freiman 

The Journal of Church and State

Waldman offers a rich, historical account. It is well-written and accessible to a general audience.” By Richard Myers.

Law and Liberty Journal

“An excellent overview of the development of religious liberty in the United States.” By Mark David Hall.

Christian Century

“Essential reading…. Waldman tells a fascinating story in a fascinating way. He writes with care, verve, and insight. With an eye to detail and anecdote, he challenges many common prejudices. Sacred Liberty will both comfort and discomfort its diverse audience.” By Paul Marshall.

Moment (Reform Judaism)

“A master narrative that lets readers fit the distortions and misperceptions of both sides—and yes, both sides have some—into informed perspective.” Interview by Amy E. Schwartz

Best Humanist Book of 2019

Winner of the Morris D. Forksoch Award from the Council for Secular Humanism

Academy of Parish Clergy–Top Ten Books of 2019

Top ten religion books of the year.

Top Ten Spirituality Books of 2019 — LibGuides

Delaware Division of Libraries.

Christianity Today

“Balm for the Religious-Freedom Lover’s Soul.” Reviewed by Richard Mouw.

Spectrum Magazine (Adventists)

“I just pray that more Adventists can read Waldman’s book…” By Nicholas Miller.

Impolite Company

“A remarkable book .” Amy Sullivan podcast interview

Matthew Dowd

Bravo @stevenwaldman. Just finished your excellent book. I highly recommend it to all my friends and even my foes on this social media platform.@matthewjdowd July 10, 2019

Booklist (starred review)

“Superb, engrossing.” Full review

Washington Book Review

“This well-researched and fascinating book is a must read for all of us.” Full review.

Jim Barter, KIKO, Phoenix

“Wooa. It is a powerful read. It knocked me out.” 

Sally Quinn, Founder of OnFaith


Your Weekly Constitutional

“Perfectly fascinating.” Stewart Harris’s podcast, supported by James Madison’s estate at Montpelier. Listen.

Denver Post

“Must read.” By Krista Kafer.

Robert Wuthnow

“Really interesting book!” (Wuthnow is one of the leading sociologists of religion in America, Director of Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion)

Englewood Review of Books

“Waldman is a gifted storyteller.. If today’s tensions around religious expressions linked to terrorism has caused you to be pessimistic toward the future of religious tolerance, then this book is for you.” By Michael Bowling.

Catholic News Service

“Offer[s] perspective and insight to an ongoing debate that is too often dominated by passion and emotion.” By Timothy Walch.

Your Weekly Constitutional

“Perfectly fascinating.” Stewart Harris’s podcast, supported by James Madison’s estate at Montpelier. Listen.

Washington Book Review

“This well-researched and fascinating book is a must read for all of us.” Full review.

Church History

“Within the broad category of works by authors such as Jon Meacham, Stephen Ambrose, and Doris Kearns Goodwin… Sacred Liberty will introduce this subject to a wider audience than many more-scholarly monographs, for which the author can be thanked.” By Steven K. Green

Publishers Weekly

“A fine overview of the growth of religious freedom in the United States.”  Full review

American Catholic Studies

“The account that Waldman describes is both celebratory and sobering. On one hand, it offers a cautiously progressive view of history in which the nation has slowly expanded on its promise of religious freedom and equality. On the other hand, Waldman demonstrates in extensive detail the many missteps that have taken place along the way. Waldman’s engaging narrative balances this tension quite well, even as the darker side of our tradition of religious inequality and discrimination dominates much of the book.”

World Magazine

“New history books worth reading.” By Marvin Olasky

New York Magazine

Trump Is Not a Defender of Religious Liberty but a Threat to It. By Ed Kilgore.

Publishers Weekly

“Books to mend a divided society.” By Lynn Garrett.

Deseret News

A new book examines what it took to truly protect religious freedom in the United States.


“An energetic pop history surveys America’s commitments to religious liberty from the 17th century to the present.” Full review

US Catholic Magazine

“Waldman suggests that American Muslims are now experiencing similar discrimination, with their faith seen as foreign and dangerous. If Waldman is right, Catholics have a responsibility to stand in their defense.”

Friends Journal

“A solid if somewhat cursory historical survey of our nation’s fraught relationship with religious freedom.” By Cameron McWhirter

National Catholic Reporter

“Book on US religious freedom starts with the Founders but forgets seeds of secularism.” By Michael Sean Winters.

The Baptist Standard

“Review: Sacred Liberty.” By Ken Camp.

Public Affairs Council

“Changing Demographics Drive Religious Tolerance.” By Alan Crawford


“Do you really think the Founding Fathers wanted God on our money?” By Rick Snedeker.

John Fea

“Why Jews and Muslims Might Claim a Religious Liberty Exemption to the Alabama Abortion Bill” by John Fea


“America’s Continuous Quest For Religious Freedom”

Nell Minnow

“America’s Struggle with What Freedom of Religion Means.” Interview

The Washington Monthly

“When Religion Is Too Free”


“Understanding American Religious Freedom—beyond James Madison”

Ponderings on a Faith Journey

“Sacred Liberty merits close attention as we try to live out the freedoms imagined by James Madison, where religion flourishes because it is set free from government interference. Waldman is a journalist, but he has a good eye for history. Therefore, this is a book worth spending much time with….I highly recommend.” By Robert Cornwell.

Bob on Books

“This is an important book that underscores the wisdom of applying the First Amendment consistently. To protect the religious freedom of any of us is to protect that of all of us.” Robert C. Trube





A conversation between Steven Waldman and Sally Quinn at Politics and Prose.

Ethical Culture Society of New York City

A conversation between Anne Klaeysen and Steven Waldman. Watch.


How persecuted faiths helped shape ‘America’s greatest export.’  Listen.

The Age of Jackson Podcast

With Daniel Gullotta. Listen.

State of Belief Radio

“Steven Waldman has made a permanent impact on religious discourse.” Full show, with Welton Gaddy.

Auburn Seminary Voices

“Revealing, challenging and helpful for the moment we are in.” Paul Raushenbush, editor of Voices. Full interview.


Exploring the Historical Roots of Religious Freedom: A Conversation with Steven Waldman Interview

Jim Bohannon, syndicated radio host

“Very fascinating.” Listen.

Religion Unplugged

With Paul Glader of The Kings College. Listen

Midtown Scholar Bookstore


Book Q&As With Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Deborah Kalb. Full conversation

WHO, Des Moines

The Greatest Threats To Religious Liberty In America. Listen with Jeff Angelo

Dr. Alvin

The most trusted name in wisdom. Listen

WNPV, Philadelphia

With Daniel Berger. Listen

WEOL, Cleveland

With Bruce Van Dyke. Listen


Madison v. Jefferson

KQRS, Minneapolis

Tom Barnard and crew.

KRLD, Dallas

Minute with Mitch Carr

Too Jewish

Podcast with Rabbi Sam Cohon




Religious Freedom is America’s Greatest Export—and It’s Under Attack. By Steven Waldman. Newsweek (cover story)

Freedom of Religion: America’s Greatest Invention. American Heritage (part of “What Makes America Great? 25 Leading Historians Provide Answers”).

What happened to U.S. evangelicals? In early America, they were our freedom fighters. The Washington Post.  

Breaking the Faith: It took centuries to fulfill James Madison’s unique vision of religious freedom. Donald Trump threatens to undo it. The Washington Monthly.

How abortion unified Catholics and evangelicals to become a power on the right.  Religion News Service.  

The Supreme Court’s ‘Peace Cross’ case demonstrates the fine art of pretending religious symbols aren’t religious. The Washington Post.

James Madison Understood Religious Freedom Better than Jefferson Did. National Review.

The Ugly History of Dual-Loyalty Charges.  The Atlantic.

Alabama Abortion Law: Should Jewish and Muslim Doctors and Women Get Exemptions For Religious Freedom. Newsweek.

What the Religious Right Gets Right. They have legitimate concerns, even if claims of persecution are exaggerated. Newsweek.

How The Politics Of Religious Freedom Got Turned On Their Head. TalkingPointsMemo.

What Past Attacks on Mormons and Catholics Teach Us About the Threat to Muslims. Religion & Politics.

The Irony Of Conservative Christians’ Opposition To Immigration. TalkingPointsMemo.



“Without freedom of conscience the whole history of the nation—and world—might be very different. We are lucky that Waldman has written this compelling study of the most essential breakthrough of modernity: the right to believe, or not, as one wishes. This is a great book about a monumental issue.”
—JON MEACHAM, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Soul of America

Sacred Liberty is an important and fascinating book full of riveting stories, provocative insights, inspiring heroes, and some serious warnings. The American model of religious freedom should be the envy of the world.  But if we don’t understand how we made this great ‘invention,’ we could easily squander the achievement.”
—REZA ASLAN, author of Zealot and God: A Human

“This is such a clear, valuable, surprising, timely and wise book…. Sacred Liberty provides the vivid, detailed, little-known stories of the people who first defended the principle of religious freedom, and have continued to re-shape and revive it in dramatically changing circumstances.”
—JAMES FALLOWS, National Correspondent for The Atlantic, co-author of the bestseller Our Towns

“Steven Waldman has given us an extraordinarily readable journey through a uniquely thorny landscape: America’s struggle to get religious liberty right. Agree or not with all of his conclusions, you cannot ignore the importance of his thesis that religious freedom must be a level ground for all sincerely held religious beliefs.”
—CRAIG L. PARSHALL, conservative civil liberties attorney and author

This is what we need to know about the history of religious freedom in America. It is often an uncomfortable story, frequently infuriating, sometimes inspiring, consistently challenging. Waldman draws the reader into this epic struggle with a vivid and engaging narrative.”
—INGRID MATTSON, former president of the Islamic Society of North America

“This compelling book is a must-read for anyone whose life is impacted by the search and the fight for religious freedom. And it’s all of us whether we know it or not; whether we follow a religion or we don’t.”
—SYLVIANE A. DIOUF, author of Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas

Sacred Liberty is a tour de force, crafted with an historian’s eye and a journalist’s flair. At a moment of renewed animus against minority faiths, Steven Waldman provides both a stirring defense of religious freedom and a warning against the forces that continue to threaten it.”
—JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN, professor of education and history, University of Pennsylvania