History of religion in the United States

History of religion in the United States

The religious history of the United States begins more than a century before the former British colonies became the United States of America in 1776.

Some of the original settlers were men and women of deep religious convictions. The religious intensity of the original settlers diminished to some extent over time but new waves of 18th century immigrants brought their own religious fervor across the Atlantic. In addition, the nation's first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion.

The result was that many of the people who rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776 cited reasons of a religious nature for their actions, and most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared a conviction that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville's observation, "indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions".

The efforts of the founding fathers to find a proper role for their support of religion—and the degree to which religion can be supported by public officials without being inconsistent with the revolutionary imperative of separation of church and state—is a question that is still debated in the country today.

eparation of church and state

The separation of church and state is a legal and political principle derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court. [Jefferson's Danbury letter has been cited favorably by the Supreme Court many times. In its 1879 Reynolds v. United States decision the high court said Jefferson's observations 'may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.' In the court's 1947 Everson v. Board of Education decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote, 'In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.' ]

Robert N. Bellah has argued in his writings that although the separation of church and state is grounded firmly in the constitution of the United States, this does not mean that there is no religious dimension in the political society of the United States. He used the term Civil Religion to describe the specific relation between politics and religion in the United States. His 1967 article analyzes the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy: "Considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word 'God' at all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious dimension." [cite journal
first =Robert Neelly
last =Bellah
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =1967
month =Winter
title =Civil Religion in America
journal =Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
volume =96
issue =1
pages =1–21
id =
url =http://web.archive.org/web/20050306124338/http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm
From the issue entitled "Religion in America."

This is not only the subject of a sociological discussion, but can also be an issue for atheists in America. There are allegations of discrimination against atheists in the United States.

Early history

Early immigrants to the American colonies were motivated largely by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion, particularly after the English Civil War, but also religious wars and disputes in France and Germany. ["The Cousins' Wars", Kevin Phillips, 1999] They included a large number of nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims, as well as Catholics (in Baltimore). Despite a common background, the groups' views on broader religious toleration were mixed. While some notable examples such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn ensured the protection of religious minorities within their colonies, others such as the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony had established churches. The Dutch colony of the New Netherlands had also established the Dutch Reformed Church and outlawed all other worship, although enforcement by the Dutch West India Company in the last years of the colony was sparse. Part of the reason for establishment was financial: the established Church was responsible for poor relief, and dissenting churches would therefore have a significant advantage.

The Flushing Remonstrance shows support for separation of church and state as early as the mid-17th century. The document was signed December 27 1657 by a group of English citizens in America who were affronted by persecution of Quakers and the religious policies of the Governor of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant had formally banned all religions other than the Dutch Reformed Church from being practised in the colony, in accordance with the laws of the Dutch Republic. The signers indicated their "desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand or fall to his own Master." [ [http://www.nyym.org/flushing/remons.html "Remonstrance of the Inhabitants of the Town of Flushing to Governor Stuyvesant"] , Dec. 27, 1657.]

Given the wide diversity of opinion on Christian theological matters in the newly independent American States, the Constitutional Convention believed a government sanctioned (established) religion would disrupt rather than bind the newly formed union together. George Washington wrote in 1790 to the country's first Jewish congregation, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island to state:

"All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it were by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." [cite web
url = http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm006.html
title = To Bigotry No Sanction:
author = Library of Congress
work = American Treasures of the Library of Congress
accessdate = 2007-02-07

There were also opponents to the support of any established church even at the state level. In 1773, Isaac Backus, a prominent Baptist minister in New England, observed that when "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued." Thomas Jefferson's influential Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted in 1786, five years before the Bill of Rights.

Most Anglican ministers, and many Anglicans, were British loyalists. The Anglican establishment, where it had existed, largely ceased to function during the American Revolution, though the new States did not formally abolish and replace it until some years after the Revolution.

Jefferson, Madison, and the "wall of separation"

The phrase " [A] hedge or "wall of separation" between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world" was first used by Baptist theologian Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island. ["Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered," The Complete Writings of Roger Williams, Volume 1, page 108 (1644).] [Feldman, Noah (2005). "Divided by God". Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 24 ("Williams's metaphor was rediscovered by Isaac Backus, a New England Baptist of Jefferson's generation, who believed, like Williams, that an established church -- which he considered to exist in the Massachusetts of his day -- would never protect religious dissenters like himself and must be opposed in order to keep religion pure.")] It was later used by Thomas Jefferson as a description of the First Amendment and its restriction on the legislative branch of the federal government, in an 1802 letter ["To Messrs. Nehemiah Dodge and Others, a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, in the State of Connecticut." January 1, 1802. Full text [http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/jefferson_dba.html available online] .] to the Danbury Baptists, a religious minority in Connecticut, where the Congregationalist Church was the "established" church, the state levied and collected taxes to support it, and there was no right to the free exercise of religion in the state constitution. Jefferson replied:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their "legislature" should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a "wall of separation" between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

Jefferson's letter was in reply to a letter ["Danbury Baptist Association's letter to Thomas Jefferson", October 7, 1801. [http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/dba_jefferson.html Full text available online] .] that he had received from the Danbury Baptist Association dated October 7 1801. In an 1808 letter to Virginia Baptists, Jefferson would use the same theme:

We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.

Jefferson and James Madison's conceptions of "separation" have long been debated. Jefferson refused to issue Proclamations of Thanksgiving sent to him by Congress during his presidency, though he did issue a Thanksgiving and Prayer proclamation as Governor of Virginia. ["Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia" (Virginia State Library, 1928), Vol. II, pp. 64-66, November 11, 1779.] [Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) (Souter, J., concurring)("President Jefferson, for example, steadfastly refused to issue Thanksgiving proclamations of any kind, in part because he thought they violated the Religion Clauses.")] Madison issued four religious proclamations while President, [James D. Richardson, "A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents" (Washington: Bureau of National Literature, 1897), Vol. II, pp. 498, 517-518, 543, 545-546.] but vetoed two bills on the grounds they violated the first amendment. [ [http://www.sunnetworks.net/~ggarman/madison.html James Madison's veto messages] ] On the other hand, both Jefferson and Madison attended religious services at the Capitol. [ [http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html Religion and the Founding of the American Republic] ; Library of Congress exhibit website; accessed 7 February, 2007] After retiring from the presidency, Madison argued in his detached memoranda [ [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions64.html James Madison's Detached Memoranda] ] for a stronger separation of church and state, opposing the very presidential issuing of religious proclamations he himself had done, and also opposing the appointment of chaplains to Congress. Madison's original draft of the Bill of Rights had included provisions binding the States, as well as the Federal Government, from an establishment of religion, but the House did not pass them.Fact|date=November 2007

Jefferson's opponents said his position was the destruction and the governmental rejection of Christianity, but this was a caricature. [See Morison and Commager, vol I] In setting up the University of Virginia, Jefferson encouraged all the separate sects to have preachers of their own, though there was a constitutional ban on the State supporting a Professorship of Divinity, arising from his own Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. [ [http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/ot2www-singleauthor?specfile=/web/data/jefferson/texts/jefall.o2w&act=text&offset=7021548&textreg=1&query=professorship+of+Divinity Jefferson's letter to Thomas Cooper, November 2, 1822] ] This arrangement was "fully compatible with Jefferson's views on the separation of church and state". [ Dumas Malone, "Jefferson and his Times", 6, 393]

Patrick Henry, Massachusetts, and Connecticut

Jefferson and Madison's approach was not the only one taken in the eighteenth century. Jefferson's Statute of Religious Freedom was drafted in opposition to a bill, chiefly supported by Patrick Henry, which would permit any Virginian to belong to any denomination, but which would require him to belong to some denomination and pay taxes to support it. Similarly, the Constitution of Massachusetts originally provided that "no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience... provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship," (Article II) but also that:

the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.
And the people of this commonwealth have also a right to, and do, invest their legislature with authority to enjoin upon all the subjects an attendance upon the instructions of the public teachers aforesaid, at stated times and seasons, if there be any on whose instructions they can conscientiously and conveniently attend. (Article III)

Since, in practice, this meant that the decision of who was taxable for a particular religion rested in the hands of the selectmen, usually Congregationalists, this system was open to abuse. It was abolished in 1833. The intervening period is sometimes referred to as an "establishment of religion" in Massachusetts.

The Duke of York had required that every community in his new lands of New York and New Jersey support "some" church, but this was more often Dutch Reformed, Quaker or Presbyterian, than Anglican. Some chose to support more than one church. He also ordained that the tax-payers were free, having paid his local tax, to choose their own church. The terms for the surrender of New Amsterdam had provided that the Dutch would have liberty of conscience, and the Duke, as an openly divine-right Catholic, was no friend of Anglicanism. The first Anglican minister in New Jersey arrived in 1698, though Anglicanism was more popular in New York. ["The story of New Jersey"; ed., William Starr Myers (1945) Vol. II, chapter 4]

Connecticut had a real establishment of religion. Its citizensdid not adopt a constitution at the Revolution, but rather amended their Charter to remove all references to the British Government. As a result, the Congregational Church continued to be established, and Yale College, a Congregational institution, received grants from the State until Connecticut adopted a constitution in 1818 partly because of this issue.

Test acts

The absence of an establishment of religion did not necessarily imply that all men were free to hold office. Most colonies had a Test Act, and several states retained them for a short time. This stood in contrast to the Federal Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the employment of any religious test for Federal office, and which through the Fourteenth Amendment later extended this prohibition to the States.

Article 6 of the United States Constitution

Article Six of the United States Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States". Prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, this was the only mention of religious freedom in the Constitution.

Bill of Rights

The first amendment to the US Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" The two parts, known as the "establishment clause" and the "free exercise clause" respectively, form the textual basis for the Supreme Court's interpretations of the "separation of church and state" doctrine.

The First Congress' deliberations show that its understanding of the separation of church and state differed sharply from that of their contemporaries in Europe.

An August 15, 1789 entry in Madison’s papers indicates he intended for the establishment clause to prevent the government imposition of religious beliefs on individuals. The entry says: “Mr. Madison said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience....” [ [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions53.html The Founders' Constitution] Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 53. The University of Chicago Press, retrieved 8/9/07.]

At the time of the passage of the Bill of Rights, many states acted in ways that would now be held unconstitutional. All of the early official state churches were disestablished by 1833 (Massachusetts), including the Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut. It is commonly accepted that, under the doctrine of Incorporation - which uses the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to hold the Bill of Rights applicable to the states - these state churches could not be reestablished today.

The 14th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIV) is one of the post-Civil War amendments, intended to secure rights for former slaves. It includes the due process and equal protection clauses among others. The amendment introduces the concept of incorporation of all relevant federal rights against the states. While it has not been fully implemented, the doctrine of incorporation has been used to ensure, through the Due Process Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause, the application of most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights to the states.

The incorporation of the First Amendment establishment clause in the landmark case of Everson v. Board of Education has impacted the subsequent interpretation of the separation of church and state in regard to the state governments. [Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).] Although upholding the state law in that case, which provided for public busing to private religious schools, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment establishment clause was fully applicable to the state governments. A more recent case involving the application of this principle against the was Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet" (1994).

upreme Court since 1947

The phrase "separation of church and state" became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in "Everson v. Board of Education", 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case which dealt with a state law that allowed the use of government funds for transportation to religious schools. While the ruling upheld the state law allowing taxpayer funding of transportation to religious schools as constitutional, "Everson" was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In panchito, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer and religious readings in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional by a vote of 6-1 for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation. As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other "official" school settings such as assemblies or programs, including even "non-sectarian" teacher-led prayers, e.g. "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country," which was part of the prayer required by the New York State Board of Regents prior to the Court's decision.

Currently, the Supreme Court applies a three-pronged test to determine whether legislation comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the "Lemon Test". First, the legislature must have adopted the law with a neutral or non-religious purpose. Second, the statute's principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute must not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion. [Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 2111, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971).]

America as a religious refuge: 17th century

Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the seventeenth century by men and women, who, in the face of European religious persecution, refused to compromise passionately-held religious convictions and fled Europe.

The Middle Atlantic colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some settlers who arrived in these areas came for secular motives—"to catch fish" as one New Englander put it—but the great majority left Europe to worship in the way they believed to be correct. They supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a City upon a Hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove that God's plan for churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness. Even colonies like Virginia, which were planned as commercial ventures, were led by entrepreneurs who considered themselves "militant Protestants" and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church.

European persecution

The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens.

Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of this policy, denounced by Roger Williams as "enforced uniformity of religion," meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst.

In some areas, Catholics persecuted Protestants; in others Protestants persecuted Catholics; in some other areas one Protestant group persecuted Protestants of other groups; and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.


Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform and purify the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. In the 1620s, leaders of the English state and church grew increasingly unsympathetic to Puritan demands. They insisted that the Puritans conform to religious practices that they abhorred, removing their ministers from office and threatening them with "extirpation from the earth" if they did not fall in line. Zealous Puritan laymen received savage punishments. For example, in 1630 a man was sentenced to life imprisonment, had his property confiscated, his nose slit, an ear cut off, and his forehead branded "S.S." (sower of sedition).

Beginning in 1630, as many as 20,000 Puritans emigrated to America from England to gain the liberty to worship as they chose. Most settled in New England, but some went as far as the West Indies. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalists." Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts in 1620, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, though in need of major reforms. Every New England Congregational church was considered an independent entity, beholden to no hierarchy. The membership was composed, at least initially, of men and women who had undergone a conversion experience and could prove it to other members. Puritan leaders hoped (futilely, as it turned out) that, once their experiment was successful, England would imitate it by instituting a church order modeled after the New England Way.

Bible commonwealths

The New England colonies have often been called "Bible Commonwealths" because they sought the guidance of the scriptures in regulating all aspects of the lives of their citizens. Scripture was cited as authority for many criminal statutes, a tradition that still impacts modern state laws.

Persecution in America

Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it: the need for uniformity of religion in the state.

Once in control in New England, they sought to break "the very neck of Schism and vile opinions." The "business" of the first settlers, a Puritan minister recalled in 1681, "was not Toleration, but [they] were professed enemies of it." Puritans expelled dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America's first major female religious leader.

Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on four Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Reflecting on the seventeenth century's intolerance, Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to concede to Virginians any moral superiority to the Puritans. Beginning in 1659, Virginia enacted anti-Quaker laws, including the death penalty for refractory Quakers. Jefferson surmised that "if no capital execution took place here, as did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or the spirit of the legislature."

Founding of Rhode Island

Expelled from Massachusetts in the winter in 1636, former Puritan leader Roger Williams issued an impassioned plea for freedom of conscience. He wrote, "God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted and enforced in any civill state; which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civill Warre, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls." Williams later founded Rhode Island on the principle of religious freedom. He welcomed people of religious belief, even some regarded as dangerously misguided, for nothing could change his view that "forced worship stinks in God's nostrils."

Execution of Quakers

Mary Dyer first ran afoul of Massachusetts authorities for supporting theological dissenter Anne Hutchinson. As a result Dyer and her family were forced to move to Rhode Island in 1638. Converted to Quakerism in England in the 1650s, Dyer returned to New England and was three times arrested and banished from Massachusetts for spreading Quaker principles. Returning to Massachusetts a fourth time, she was hanged on June 1, 1660. Quakers later had a resurgence in Massachusetts in the 1700's and 1800's with active Friend's meeting houses in Worcester, Uxbridge and many other locations.

Jewish refuge in America

For some decades Jews had flourished in Dutch-held areas of Brazil, but a Portuguese conquest of the area in 1654 confronted them with the prospect of the introduction of the Inquisition, which had already burned a Brazilian Jew at the stake in 1647. A shipload of twenty-three Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York City) in 1654. By the next year, this small community had established religious services in the city. By 1658, Jews had arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, also seeking religious liberty. Small numbers of Jews continued to come to the British North American colonies, settling mainly in the seaport towns. By the late 18th century, Jewish settlers had established several thriving synagogues.


The Religious Society of Friends formed in England in 1652 around leader George Fox.

Many scholars today consider Quakers as radical Puritans because the Quakers carried to extremes many Puritan convictions. They stretched the sober deportment of the Puritans into a glorification of "plainness." Theologically, they expanded the Puritan concept of a church of individuals regenerated by the Holy Spirit to the idea of the indwelling of the Spirit or the "Light of Christ" in every person.

Such teaching struck many of the Quakers' contemporaries as dangerous heresy. Quakers were severely persecuted in England for daring to deviate so far from orthodox Christianity. By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England and 243 had died of torture and mistreatment in jail.

This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in New Jersey in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched. In 1681, when Quaker leader William Penn parlayed a debt owed by Charles II to his father into a charter for the province of Pennsylvania, many more Quakers were prepared to grasp the opportunity to live in a land where they might worship freely. By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to Pennsylvania. Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society.

Pennsylvania Germans

Pennsylvania Germans are inaccurately known as Pennsylvania Dutch from a misunderstanding of "Pennsylvania Deutsch", the group's German language name. The first group of Germans to settle in Pennsylvania arrived in Philadelphia in 1683 from Krefeld, Germany, and included Mennonites and possibly some Dutch Quakers. During the early years of German emigration to Pennsylvania, most of the emigrants were members of small sects that shared Quaker principles—Mennonites, Dunkers, Schwenkfelders, Moravians, and some German Baptist groups—and were fleeing religious persecution.

Penn and his agents encouraged German and European emigration to Pennsylvania by circulating promotional literature touting the economic advantages of Pennsylvania as well as the religious liberty available there. The appearance in Pennsylvania of so many different religious groups made the province resemble "an asylum for banished sects." Beginning in the 1720s, significantly larger numbers of German Lutherans and German Reformed arrived in Pennsylvania. Many were motivated by economic considerations.

Roman Catholics in Maryland

Although the Stuart kings of England did not hate the Roman Catholic Church, most of their subjects did, causing Catholics to be harassed and persecuted in England throughout the seventeenth century.

Driven by "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren," George Calvert obtained a charter from Charles I in 1632 for the territory between Pennsylvania and Virginia. This Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new colony.

In 1634, two ships, the "Ark" and the "Dove", brought the first settlers to Maryland. Aboard were approximately two hundred people. Among the passengers were two Catholic priests who had been forced to board surreptitiously to escape the reach of English anti-Catholic laws. Upon landing in Maryland, the Catholics, led spiritually by the Jesuits, were transported by a profound reverence, similar to that experienced by John Winthrop and the Puritans when they set foot in New England.

Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the seventeenth century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, the Church of England was legally established in the colony and English penal laws, which deprived Catholics of the right to vote, hold office, or worship publicly, were enforced.

Until the American Revolution, Catholics in Maryland were dissenters in their own country, living at times under a state of siege but keeping loyal to their convictions.

Virginia and the Church of England

Virginia was settled by businessmen operating through a joint-stock company, the Virginia Company of London, who wanted to get rich. They also wanted the Church to flourish in their colony and kept it well supplied with ministers.

Some early governors sent by the Virginia Company acted in the spirit of crusaders. Sir Thomas Dale considered himself engaged in "religious warfare" and expected no reward "but from him on whose vineyard I labor whose church with greedy appetite I desire to erect."

During Dale's tenure, religion was spread at the point of the sword. Everyone was required to attend church and be catechized by a minister. Those who refused could be executed or sent to the galleys.

When a popular assembly, the House of Burgesses, was established in 1619, it enacted religious laws that "were a match for anything to be found in the Puritan societies." Unlike the colonies to the north, where the Church of England was regarded with suspicion throughout the colonial period, Virginia was a bastion of Anglicanism.

The House of Burgesses passed a law in 1632 requiring that there be a "uniformitie throughout this colony both in substance and circumstance to the cannons and constitution of the Church of England." The church in Virginia faced problems unlike those confronted in other colonies—such as enormous parishes, some sixty miles long, and the inability to ordain ministers locally--but it continued to command the loyalty and affection of the colonists.

In 1656, a prospective minister was advised that he "would find an assisting, an embracing, a comforting people" in the colony. At the end of the seventeenth century the church in Virginia, according to a recent authority, was prospering; it was "active and growing" and was "well attended by the young and old alike."

Eighteenth century

Against a prevailing view that eighteenth century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers' passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the "ascension rather than the declension"; another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the colonies in a state of "feverish growth." Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. Between 1700 and 1740, an estimated 75-80% of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace.Fact|date=March 2008

By 1780 the percentage of adult colonists who adhered to a church was between 10-30%, not counting slaves or Native Americans. North Carolina had the lowest percentage at about 4%, while New Hampshire and South Carolina were tied for the highest, at about 16%. [cite book |last= Carnes |first= Mark C. |coauthors= John A. Garraty with Patrick Williams |title= Mapping America's Past: A Historical Atlas |year= 1996 |publisher= Henry Holt and Company |isbn= 0-8050-4927-4 |pages= p. 50]


Churches in eighteenth-century America varied greatly, from the plain, modest buildings in newly settled rural areas to elegant edifices in the prosperous cities on the eastern seaboard. Churches reflected the customs and traditions as well as the wealth and social status of the denominations that built them. German churches contained features unknown in English ones.


Deism is a loosely used term that describes the views of certain English and continental thinkers. These views attracted a following in Europe toward the latter part of the seventeenth century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late eighteenth century. Deism stressed morality and rejected the orthodox Christian view of the divinity of Christ, often viewing him as a sublime, but entirely human, teacher of morality.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are usually considered the leading American deists. There is no doubt that they subscribed to the deist credo that all religious claims were to be subjected to the scrutiny of reason. "Call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion," Jefferson advised.

Other founders of the American republic, such as Ethan Allen and Thomas Paine, were authors of deistic books. George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe (all Virginians also affiliated with the Episcopal Church there) are often thought to have held deist beliefs, though each was famously quiet about his religious beliefs beyond declarations of faith in a Creator. Though influential, Deists in the United States amounted to only a small percentage of the general population.

Deism also influenced the development of Unitarianism in America. By 1800, all but one Congregationalist church in Boston had Unitarian preachers teaching the strict unity of God, the subordinate nature of Christ, and salvation by character. Harvard University, founded by Congregationalists, became a source of Unitarian training. John Adams and his family attended one of the first Unitarian churches in Massachusetts.

Great Awakening: emergence of evangelicalism

Evangelicalism is difficult to date and to define. In 1531, at the beginning of the Reformation, Sir Thomas More referred to religious adversaries as "Evaungelicalles." Scholars have argued that, as a self-conscious movement, evangelicalism did not arise until the mid-seventeenth century, perhaps not until the Great Awakening itself. The fundamental premise of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to a "new birth" through preaching of the Word.

The first generation of New England Puritans required that church members undergo a conversion experience that they could describe publicly. Their successors were not as successful in reaping harvests of redeemed souls.

During the first decades of the eighteenth century, in the Connecticut River Valley, a series of local "awakenings" began. By the 1730s, they had spread into what was interpreted as a general outpouring of the Spirit that bathed the American colonies, England, Wales, and Scotland.

In mass open-air revivals powerful preachers like George Whitefield brought thousands of souls to the new birth. The Great Awakening, which had spent its force in New England by the mid-1740s, split the Congregational and Presbyterian churches into supporters—called "New Lights" and "New Side"—and opponents—the "Old Lights" and "Old Side." Many New England New Lights became Separate Baptists. Largely through the efforts of a charismatic preacher from New England named Shubal Stearns and paralleled by the New Side Presbyterians (who were eventually reunited on their own terms with the Old Side), they carried the Great Awakening into the southern colonies, igniting a series of the revivals that lasted well into the nineteenth century.

The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust—Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists—became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the nineteenth century. Opponents of the Awakening or those split by it—Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists—were left behind.

American Revolution

Religion played a major role in the American Revolution by offering a moral sanction for opposition to the British—an assurance to the average American that revolution was justified in the sight of God. As a recent scholar has observed, "by turning colonial resistance into a righteous cause, and by crying the message to all ranks in all parts of the colonies, ministers did the work of secular radicalism and did it better."

Ministers served the American cause in many capacities during the Revolution: as military chaplains, as scribes for committees of correspondence, and as members of state legislatures, constitutional conventions and the Continental Congress. Some even took up arms, leading Continental Army troops in battle.

The Revolution split some denominations, notably the Church of England, whose ministers were bound by oath to support the king, and the Quakers, who were traditionally pacifists. Religious practice suffered in certain places because of the absence of ministers and the destruction of churches, but in other areas, religion flourished.

The Revolution strengthened millennialist strains in American theology. At the beginning of the war some ministers were persuaded that, with God's help, America might become "the principal Seat of the glorious Kingdom which Christ shall erect upon Earth in the latter Days." Victory over the British was taken as a sign of God's partiality for America and stimulated an outpouring of millennialist expectations—the conviction that Christ would rule on earth for 1,000 years. This attitude combined with a groundswell of secular optimism about the future of America helped to create the buoyant mood of the new nation that became so evident after Jefferson assumed the presidency in 1801.

Church of England

The American Revolution inflicted deeper wounds on the Church of England in America than on any other denomination because the English monarch was the head of the church. Church of England priests, at their ordination, swore allegiance to the British crown.

The Book of Common Prayer offered prayers for the monarch, beseeching God "to be his defender and keeper, giving him victory over all his enemies," who in 1776 were American soldiers as well as friends and neighbors of American parishoners of the Church of England. Loyalty to the church and to its head could be construed as treason to the American cause.

Patriotic American members of the Church of England, loatheing to discard so fundamental a component of their faith as The Book of Common Prayer, revised it to conform to the political realities. After the Treaty of Paris (1783) documenting British recognition of American independence, the church split and the Anglican Communion created, allowing a separated Episcopal Church of the United States to replace, in the United States, and be in communion with the Church of England.

Continental Congress

While many members of The Continental Congresses and Congress of the Confederation, legislative bodies that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, were religious Christians, a large number of the more influential members were Deist. [cite book |last= Mead |first= Sidney |title= The Lively Experiment |publisher= Harper and Row |year= 1963 |pages= 41-47] The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion in the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national governmentFact|date=March 2007. Although the Articles of Confederation did not officially authorize Congress to concern itself with religion, the citizenry did not object to such activitiesFact|date=March 2007. This lack of objection suggests that both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, non-polemical Christianity. [cite book |last= Mead |first= Sidney |title= The Lively Experiment |publisher= Harper and Row |year= 1963 |pages= 41-47]

The Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a BibleFact|date=March 2007, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. National days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" were proclaimed by Congress at least twice annually throughout the warFact|date=March 2007. Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its peopleFact|date=March 2007. This agreement stipulated that they "should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions—as divine punishments for sin—from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.

The first national government of the United States was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people."

tate governments

Many states were as explicit about their desire for a thriving religion as Congress was in its thanksgiving and fast day proclamations. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 declared, for example, that "the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend on piety, religion and morality." The states were in a stronger position to act upon this conviction because they were considered to possess "general" powers as opposed to the limited, specifically enumerated powers of Congress.

Nursing Fathers

During the debates in the 1780s about the propriety of providing financial support to the churches, those who favored state patronage of religion urged their legislators, in the words of petitioners from Amherst County, Virginia, in 1783, not "to think it beneath your Dignity to become Nursing Fathers of the Church."

The idea stretched back to the beginning of the Reformation. The term was drawn from Isaiah 49:23, in which the prophet commanded that "kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers." The responsibilities of the state were understood in an early work like Bishop John Jewel's Apologie of the Church of England (1562) to be comprehensive, including imposing the church's doctrine on society.

The term "nursing father" was used in all American colonies with established churches. It appeared in the Cambridge Platform of 1648, the "creed" of New England Congregationalism; in numerous Anglican writings; and in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession. By the time of the American Revolution, the state was no longer expected to maintain religious uniformity in its jurisdiction, but it was expected to use its resources for the churches' benefit.

Church and state debate: Massachusetts

After independence the American states were obliged to write constitutions establishing how each would be governed. For three years, from 1778 to 1780, the political energies of Massachusetts were absorbed in drafting a charter of government that the voters would accept. A constitution prepared in 1778 was decisively defeated in a public referendum. A new convention convened in 1779 to make another attempt at writing an acceptable draft.

One of the most contentious issues was whether the state would support religion financially. Advocating such a policy—on the grounds that religion was necessary for public happiness, prosperity, and order—were the ministers and most members of the Congregational Church, which had been established, and hence had received public financial support, during the colonial period. The Baptists, who had grown strong since the Great Awakening, tenaciously adhered to their traditional conviction that churches should receive no support from the state. They believed that the Divine Truth, having been freely received, should be freely given by Gospel ministers.

The Constitutional Convention chose to act as nursing fathers of the church and included in the draft constitution submitted to the voters Article Three, which authorized a general religious tax to be directed to the church of a taxpayers' choice. Despite substantial doubt that Article Three had been approved by the required two thirds of the voters, in 1780 Massachusetts authorities declared it and the rest of the state constitution to have been duly adopted. Such tax laws also took effect in Connecticut and New Hampshire, and were passed but not implemented in Maryland and Georgia.

Persecution in Massachusetts

The Salem witch trials may have been pre-Revolutionary intolerance, but Congregationalists publicly harassed Anglicans because it was thought they were Tory spies and "subversives". Baptists were considered "intractable", because they did not share the same Federalizing (willing assimilation) intentions of the Revolution and wanted to be left alone from the New England standard. Generally, dissenting denominations were sidelined and ostracized by the Boston Brahmins; never being allowed entrance to the "in-crowd" and consequently had little influence in regional decisions which affected them. Rhode Island was surrounded by Massachusetts and Connecticut, both entities hostile religiously and politically as well as in matters of the worth of that colony's charter. Both establishments repeatedly nipped at Rhode Island's Baptist independence.

Roger Williams made polemics about the Yankee and Quaker standards as fundamentally hypocritical, but Baptist churches and notable personas did not fare well in the region, so the focus of that denomination relocated further south. Browns of Providence, whose surname was given to the first Baptist university, were torn apart from within by the proselytizing zeal of Boston Congregationalists and Philadelphia Quakers making converts of family members. Even though adherents of all denominations (including Sephardi Jews at Touro Synagogue) participated in the slave trade and/or invested in King Cotton to support textile manufacturing, Baptists were targeted as those singularly "guilty" for not being active abolitionists. Massachusetts clergymen perceived that the Antinomianism of Anne Hutchinson influenced Rhode Islanders to condemn slavery as immoral and non-Christian. [http://www.projo.com/slavery]

Williams's writings and John Brown's associations would later augment Baptist animosity towards Northern Protestantism, antebellum tensions occurred around Congregationalists' and Quaker abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown as well as the resulting American Civil War and Reconstruction. Baptist churches throughout the South separated from national denominations to defend slavery from abolitionist thought. To this day, Christian denominations having Northern colonial roots have break-away counterparts in the American South Baptist, Southern Methodist Church, and various Presbyterian groups. [http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/pics/geo200/religion/church_bodies.gif]

Church and state debate: Virginia

In 1779, the Virginia Assembly deprived Church of England ministers of tax support. Patrick Henry sponsored a bill for a general religious assessment in 1784. He appeared to be on the verge of securing its passage when his opponents neutralized his political influence by electing him governor. As a result, legislative consideration of Henry's bill was postponed until the fall of 1785, giving its adversaries an opportunity to mobilize public opposition to it.

Arguments used in Virginia were similar to those that had been employed in Massachusetts a few years earlier. Proponents of a general religious tax, principally Anglicans, urged that it should be supported on "Principles of Public Utility" because Christianity offered the "best means of promoting Virtue, Peace, and Prosperity." Opponents were led by Baptists, supported by Presbyterians (some of whom vacillated on the issue), and theological liberals. As in Massachusetts, they argued that government support of religion corrupted it. Virginians also made a strong libertarian case that government involvement in religion violated a people's civil and natural rights.

James Madison, the leading opponent of government-supported religion, combined both arguments in his celebrated Memorial and Remonstrance. In the fall of 1785, Madison marshaled sufficient legislative support to administer a decisive defeat to the effort to levy religious taxes. In place of Henry's bill, Madison and his allies passed in January 1786 Thomas Jefferson's famous Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which brought the debate in Virginia to a close by severing, once and for all, the links between government and religion.

Persecution in Virginia

In Virginia, religious persecution, directed at Baptists and, to a lesser degree, at Presbyterians, continued after the Declaration of Independence. The perpetrators were members of the Church of England, sometimes acting as vigilantes but often operating in tandem with local authorities.

Physical violence was usually reserved for Baptists, against whom there was social as well as theological animosity. A notorious instance of abuse in 1771 of a well-known Baptist preacher, "Swearin Jack" Waller, was described by the victim: "The Parson of the Parish [accompanied by the local sheriff] would keep running the end of his horsewhip in [Waller's] mouth, laying his whip across the hymn book, etc. When done singing [Waller] proceeded to prayer. In it he was violently jerked off the stage; they caught him by the back part of his neck, beat his head against the ground, sometimes up and sometimes down, they carried him through the gate . . . where a gentleman [the sheriff] gave him . . . twenty lashes with his horsewhip."

The persecution of Baptists made a strong, negative impression on many patriot leaders, whose loyalty to principles of civil liberty exceeded their loyalty to the Church of England in which they were raised. James Madison was not the only patriot to despair, as he did in 1774, that the "diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution rages" in his native colony. Accordingly, civil libertarians like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson joined Baptists and Presbyterians to defeat the campaign for state financial involvement in religion in Virginia.

Federal government

In response to widespread sentiment that to survive the United States needed a stronger federal government, a convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and on September 17 adopted the Constitution of the United States. Aside from Article VI, which stated that "no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification" for any public office or trust, the Constitution said nothing about religion. Its reserve troubled two groups of Americans—those who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some colonies, exerted pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress. In September 1789, the Congress adopted the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion."

Like all the presidents after them, the first five Revolutionary War veteran Presidents of the United States were patrons of religion—George Washington was a reverent theist, and often attended Episcopal services with his wife (though he refused Holy Communion.) John Adams once described himself as "a church going animal," though his church was (what would become) Unitarian, not Christian. Both statesmen discouraged religious support at the Constitutional level because of its divisiveness. They confined themselves to promoting religion rhetorically, offering frequent testimonials to its importance in building the moral character of American citizens, that, they believed, undergirded public order and successful popular government. In his Farewell Address of September 1796, Washington called religion, as the source of morality, "a necessary spring of popular government." (The document was largely written, with Washington's approval, by his friend and former Cabinet member Alexander Hamilton. Washington never actually spoke the address, but simply dropped it off to be published in newspapers.)

Still, the personal religious beliefs of the Revolutionaries were quite complex. Washington, for example, left more than thirty volumes of his diary and public papers, yet they contain not a single reference to Jesus Christ or Christianity as a personal belief. (Or, for that matter, any other religious credo.) Adams's views on religion are much more profuse, and clearly non-Christian, though usually sympathetic to its better natures.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth Presidents, were less hospitable to religion than their predecessors, though while in office both gave public displays of religion sporadic support. Both expressed regret for some of these decisions later.

Curiously, the only one of the Founders who ever unequivocably stated that he was a 'Christian' was Thomas Jefferson. In an April 21, 1803 letter to his friend and fellow Revolutionary hero Dr. Benjamin Rush, Jefferson wrote: "I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other." [ [http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl153.htm From Revolution to Reconstruction: Presidents: Thomas Jefferson: Letters: THE MORALS OF JESUS ] ] Obviously, Jefferson realized that such a definition of Christ as a great teacher but not a divine, was unacceptable to most Christians, so it was a claim he never repeated in public.

Constitution of the United States

When the Constitution was submitted to the American public, many "pious people" complained that the document had slighted God, for it contained "no recognition of his mercies to us… or even of his existence." Accommodationists argue that the Constitution may have been reticent about religion for two reasons: first, many delegates were committed federalists, who believed that the power to legislate on religion, if it existed at all, lay within the domain of the state, not the national, governments; second, the delegates believed that to introduce such a politically controversial issue as religion into the federal Constitution would lead to dissension and be a tactical mistake.

Strict separationists would argue that omitting God could hardly have been a mere oversight; the Constitution of the United States was thus clearly intended to be the world's first truly secular document.

Accommodationists counter that by not directly endorsing religion, the Constitution is not necessarily an "irreligious" document any more than the Articles of Confederation was an "irreligious" document. They argue the Constitution deals with the church precisely as the Articles had, thereby maintaining, at the national level, the religious status quo. In neither document, they maintain, did the people yield any explicit power to act in the field of religion. They add further that the absence of expressed powers did not prevent either the Continental-Confederation Congresses or the Congress under the Constitution from sponsoring a program to support, even promote a general, nonsectarian Christian Protestantism (e.g., the passage of The Northwest Ordinance, which provided stipends for Christian preachers to exhort the benefits of Christianity to mollify 'savage Indians.'")

Strict separationists would argue that not living up to the promises of the Constitution's lack of religion did not alter its intent. The explicit Constitutional benefits of male suffrage were often refused to African-American males simply because white males were blinded by their own racial prejudice. Religious bigotry was equally prevalent.

Bill of Rights

Many Americans were disappointed that the Constitution did not contain a bill of rights that would explicitly enumerate the rights of American citizens and enable courts and public opinion to protect these rights from an oppressive government. (Opponents believed it to superfluous because you simply could not name all human rights.) Supporters of a bill of rights permitted the Constitution to be adopted with the understanding that the first Congress under the new government would attempt to add a bill of rights.

James Madison took the lead in steering such a bill through the First Federal Congress, which convened in the spring of 1789. The Virginia Ratifying Convention and Madison's constituents—among whom were large numbers of Baptists who wanted freedom of religion secured—expected him to push for a bill of rights.

On September 28, 1789, both houses of Congress voted to send twelve amendments to the states. In December 1791, those ratified by the requisite three fourths of the states became the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Religion was addressed in the First Amendment in the following familiar words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In notes for his June 8, 1789, speech introducing the Bill of Rights, Madison indicated his opposition to established religion.

Worship Services on Public Property

Within a year of his inauguration, Thomas Jefferson began attending worship services in the House of Representatives. [ [http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html Religion and the Federal Government: PART 2 (Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Library of Congress Exhibition) ] ]

Madison also attended these services in the Capitol. Such services in the House—a practice that continued until after the Civil War—were acceptable to Jefferson because they were not necessarily ChristianFact|date=December 2007, were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. The specific content of these services varied. Some were clearly Christian, others were what would now be considered Unitarian.fact|date=June 2008 Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.

Throughout his administration, Jefferson permitted worship services in executive branch buildings. These services were also held in the Supreme Court chambers.

Jefferson's actions may seem surprising given his famous belief that there be a "wall of separation between church and state". But much of the modern objection to that formula comes from thinking that 'worship' implies 'Christian worship.'fact|date=June 2008 In attending worship services on public property, Jefferson and Madison's actions are often misconstrued by some Christians as a symbolic support for their beliefs, but not others.Fact|date=December 2007 Jefferson himself faced such religious hostility in his own lifetime. It was one of the reasons he and other Founders supported the separation of church and state.

The Wall of Separation

In October 1801, members of the Danbury Baptists Associations wrote a letter to the new president-elect Jefferson. Baptists, being a minority in Connecticut, were still required to pay fees to support the Congregationalist majority. The Baptists found this intolerable. They wrote that under the existing state constitution: "...religion is considered as the first object of Legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favor granted, and not as inalienable rights: And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen."

Clearly, the Baptists were well aware of Jefferson's own unorthodox beliefs and sought him as an ally in making all religious expression a fundamental human right and not a matter of government largesse. Supporting a particular state denomination was no different than supporting a religion. In his January 1, 1802 reply to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association Jefferson cited the First Amendment and, in summing up its original intent, coined a now-familiar phrase in today's political and judicial circles: the amendment established a "wall of separation between church and state." Largely unknown in its day, this phrase has since become a major Constitutional issue.

The first time the U.S. Supreme Court cited that very phrase from Jefferson was in Reynolds vs. U.S. in 1878.

Before drafting his letter, Jefferson consulted Postmaster General Gideon Granger of Connecticut and Attorney General Levi Lincoln, Sr. of Massachusetts. Some accommodationists argue that because Jefferson consulted two New England politicians, his reply to the Danbury Baptists can simply be dismissed as a 'political' letter. Strict separationists reply that if the opinions of Thomas Jefferson can be ignored, then the Constitution itself should be ignored.fact|date=June 2008

That the idea of the separation of church and state had widespread acceptance in the United States as early as the 1830s is supported by Alexis de Tocqueville: "I found that they [clergymen, including several Roman Catholic priests] differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point." Democracy in America, 1835, Book One Part 3 Chapter 17, Section 6. "Principal Causes Which Render Religion Powerful in America."

Revivalism (1720–1906)

Revivalism refers to the Calvinist and Wesleyan revival, called the Great Awakening, in North America which saw the development of evangelical Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and new Methodist churches. When the movement eventually waned, it gave rise to new Restorationist movements.

The religion of the new American republic was evangelicalism, which, between 1800 and the Civil War, was the "grand absorbing theme" of American religious life. During some years in the first half of the nineteenth century, revivals (through which evangelicalism found expression) occurred so often that religious publications that specialized in tracking them lost count. In 1827, for example, one journal exulted that "revivals, we rejoice to say, are becoming too numerous in our country to admit of being generally mentioned in our Record."

During the years between the inaugurations of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, historians see "evangelicalism emerging as a kind of national church or national religion." The leaders and ordinary members of the "evangelical empire" of the nineteenth century were American patriots who subscribed to the views of the Founders that religion was a "necessary spring" for republican government; they believed, as a preacher in 1826 asserted, that there was "an association between Religion and Patriotism."

Converting their fellow citizens to Christianity was, for many Christians, an act that simultaneously saved souls and saved the republic. The American Home Missionary Society assured its supporters in 1826 that "we are doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity." With the disappearance of efforts by government to create morality in the body politic (symbolized by the termination in 1833 of Massachusetts's tax support for churches) evangelical, benevolent societies assumed that role, bringing about what today might be called the privatization of the responsibility for forming a virtuous citizenry.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, Bishop Francis Asbury led the American Methodist movement as one of the most prominent religious leaders of the young republic. Traveling throughout the eastern seaboard, Methodism grew quickly under Asbury's leadership into one of the nation's largest and most influential denominations.

Great Awakenings

The First Great Awakening was a wave of religious enthusiasm among Protestants in the American colonies "c". 1730–1740, emphasizing the traditional Reformed virtues of Godly preaching, rudimentary liturgy, and a deep sense of personal guilt and redemption by Christ Jesus. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom saw it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival, and Methodism in England. [ Sydney E. Ahlstrom, "A Religious History of the American People". (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972) p. 263] It centered on reviving the spirituality of established congregations, and mostly affected Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Baptist, and Methodist churches, while also spreading within the slave population. The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s), unlike the first, focused on the unchurched and sought to instill in them a deep sense of personal salvation as experienced in revival meetings. It also sparked the beginnings of Restorationist groups such as the Mormons and the Holiness movement. The Third Great Awakening began from 1857 and was most notable for taking the movement throughout the world, especially in English speaking countries. The final group to emerge from the "great awakenings" in North America was Pentecostalism, which had its roots in the Methodist, Wesleyan, and Holiness movements, and began in 1906 on Azusa Street, in Los Angeles. Pentecostalism would later lead to the Charismatic movement.

Camp meetings

In 1800, major revivals that eventually reached into almost every corner of the land began at opposite ends of the country: the decorous Second Great Awakening in New England and the exuberant Great Revival in Cane Ridge, Kentucky. The principal religious innovation produced by the Kentucky revivals was the camp meeting.

The revivals were organized by Presbyterian ministers who modeled them after the extended outdoor "communion seasons," used by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, which frequently produced emotional, demonstrative displays of religious conviction. In Kentucky, the pioneers loaded their families and provisions into their wagons and drove to the Presbyterian meetings, where they pitched tents and settled in for several days.

When assembled in a field or at the edge of a forest for a prolonged religious meeting, the participants transformed the site into a camp meeting. The religious revivals that swept the Kentucky camp meetings were so intense and created such gusts of emotion that their original sponsors, the Presbyterians, as well the Baptists, soon repudiated them. The Methodists, however, adopted and eventually domesticated camp meetings and introduced them into the eastern United States, where for decades they were one of the evangelical signatures of the denomination.

Emergence of African American churches

Scholars disagree about the extent of the native African content of black Christianity as it emerged in eighteenth-century America, but there is no dispute that the Christianity of the black population was grounded in evangelicalism.

The Second Great Awakening has been called the "central and defining event in the development of Afro-Christianity." During these revivals Baptists and Methodists converted large numbers of blacks. However, many were disappointed at the treatment they received from their fellow believers and at the backsliding in the commitment to abolish slavery that many white Baptists and Methodists had advocated immediately after the American Revolution.

When their discontent could not be contained, forceful black leaders followed what was becoming an American habit—they formed new denominations. In 1787, Richard Allen and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and in 1815 founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed. By 1846, the AME Church, which began with 8 clergy and 5 churches, had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches, and 17,375 members.

Church of Christ, Scientist

The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. by Mary Baker Eddy, the author of its distinctive book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which offers a unique interpretation of Christian faith. Christian Science teaches that the reality of God denies the reality of sin, sickness, death and the material world. Accounts of miraculous healing are common within the church, and adherents often refuse traditional medical treatments.

The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 following a personal healing in 1866, which she claimed resulted from reading the Bible. [cite web
last =
first =
title = About Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer of Christian Science
work = About Christian Science
publisher = The First Church of Christ, Scientist
date = Copyright 2006
url = http://www.christianscience.com/marybakereddy/
accessdate = 2006-08-15
] She called this experience "the falling apple" that led to her discovery of Christian Science. She was convinced that "the divine Spirit had wrought the miracle — a miracle which later I found to be in perfect scientific accord with divine law." (Ret 24) She spent the next three years investigating the law of God according to the Bible, especially in the words and works of Jesus. The Bible and Eddy's textbook on Christian healing, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," are together the church's key doctrinal sources and have been ordained as the church's "dual impersonal pastor."

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is widely known for its publications, especially "The Christian Science Monitor", a daily newspaper published internationally in print and on the Internet. Some consider the Church to be controversial due to its emphasis on healing through prayer when others would likely choose modern medicine. There have also been periodic tensions with other Christian denominations who reject the idea that Christian Science is a Christian denomination because of what some consider to be unorthodox tenets. (An example of these tenets is: "We acknowledge Jesus' atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death." [cite book
last = Baker Eddy
first = Mary
coauthors =
title = Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
publisher = Trustees under the will of Mary Baker G. Eddy
date = 1875, 1947
month =
id = ASIN 0007FAPN0
page = p. 497
] (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 497)


Restorationism refers to various unaffiliated movements that considered contemporary Christianity, in all its forms, to be a deviation from the true, original Christianity, which these groups then attempted to "Reconstruct", often using the Book of Acts as a "guidebook" of sorts. Restorationism developed out of the Second Great Awakening and is historically connected to the Protestant Reformation, [Ahlstrom's summary is as follows: Restorationism has its genesis with Thomas and Alexander Campbell, whose movement is connected to the German Reformed Church through Otterbein, Albright, and Winebrenner (p. 212). American Millennialism and Adventism, which arose from Evangelical Protestantism, produced certain groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (p. 387, 501–9), the Jehovah's Witness movement (p. 807), and, as a reaction specifically to William Miller, Seventh Day Adventism (p. 381); Sydney E. Ahlstrom, "A Religious History of the American People". (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972)] but differs in that Restorationists do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian Church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as "restoring" the Church that they believe was lost at some point. The name Restoration is also used to describe the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah's Witness Movement.


The origins of another distinctive religious group, the Latter-day Saints (LDS)—also widely known as Mormons—arose in the early 1800s during the "Golden Day of Democratic Evangelicalism." Founder Joseph Smith, Jr., and many of his earliest followers came from an area of western New York called the burned-over district, because it had been "scorched" by so many revivals.

The revivals sparked a strong desire in fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith and his family to unite themselves to one of the Protestant churches exuberantly evangelizing in the area, and the Smith family divided itself among several denominations. Despite a growing affinity for the Methodist sect, Smith resolved to appeal to God for guidance. As a result of his inquiry, Smith claimed to have received a vision in 1820 in which God called him to restore the early Christian church, which had presumably fallen into apostasy centuries earlier. Smith claimed to have subsequently received a series of revelations from God and visitations from angelic messengers, providing him with ongoing instruction in the execution of his role as a prophet and a restorationist. After publishing the Book of Mormon — which he claimed to have translated by divine power from a record of ancient American prophets recorded on golden plates — Smith organized the "Church of Christ" on April 6, 1830.

The church subscribed to many mainstream Christian beliefs but professed distinctive doctrines based on post-biblical revelation. Because of persecution that began with Smith's First Vision, the Mormons moved from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, where they built up the city of Nauvoo. On June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by a mob. By the winter of 1846, persecution and violence threatened the LDS in Nauvoo.

Under the leadership of Brigham Young, most LDS migrated to Utah to escape persecution. The first pioneer parties arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The church headquartered in Utah is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and became a worldwide denomination. Some LDS did not migrate to Utah and reorganized its followers eventually under the leadership of Smith's son Joseph Smith III. This group is now known as the Community of Christ and has a membership of about 140,000 centered in the Midwest. Several other much smaller sects are also derived from the Latter-day Saint legacy.

Conflicts between the United States and the Mormon Church in Utah largely over the church's practice of plural marriage (polygamy) and ecclesiastical control of much civil law resulted in a long delay of statehood for Utah. The non-polygamous Community of Christ was better able to accommodate itself to its Protestant neighbors in the Midwest and suffered considerably less persecution.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses are members of a restorationist [Stark et al, Why Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow So Rapidly: A Theoretical Application, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 12, Num. 2, 1997: 133–157] [The Watchtower, October 1, 1977 p. 598: “"Jehovah’s Witnesses today have made efforts to learn the mode of operation of the early Christian congregation and to follow that Scriptural pattern".”; Cote, P., Richardson, J.T., Disciplined Litigation, Vigilant Litigation, and Deformation: Dramatic Organisation Change in Jehovah’s Witnesses: "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion", March 2001 Vol. 40 No 1 p 23, “"Not taking part in political activities, the ‘neutrality principle’ as it is known, is for the Witnesses, along with the blood taboo, the surest sign that theirs is the original community of true Christians".”] religious denomination of the same name. The religion emerged from the Bible Student Movement, founded in the late 19th century by Charles Taze Russell.

The history of Jehovah's Witnesses dates from 1872 when Charles Taze Russell began to lead a Bible study group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Originally known as Bible Students, they experienced a major schism in 1917 as Joseph Franklin Rutherford began his presidency. Rutherford gave new direction to the movement and coined the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" in 1931.

Jehovah's Witnesses originated with the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. Various splinter groups arose after Russell's death, particularly with the beginning of the presidency of Russell's successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford. Those who remained supportive of the Watchtower Society, in 1931 came to adopt the name "Jehovah's Witnesses", under Rutherford's leadership.

On January 6, 1917, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (also known as "Judge" Rutherford) was elected second President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. A power struggle soon developed between Rutherford and four of the seven-member Board of Directors of the Society. [New by-laws were passed at the time of Rutherford's election that strengthened the President's authority. cite book | author = M.J. Penton | title=Apocalypse Delayed|pages=p. 51 Rutherford, as chief legal counsel for the Watch Tower Society, had written the new by-laws. (See "Harvest Siftings II", written by J.F. Rutherford.) Initially, the Board of Directors for the Watch Tower Society accepted this change, but four of the board members withdrew their support. Rutherford published his account of the dispute in cite web|url=http://www.biblestudents.net/history/harvest_siftings_1917.htm|title=Harvest Siftings and cite web|url=http://www.biblestudents.net/history/harvest_siftings2_1917.htm|title=Harvest Siftings II The four directors replied to Rutherford's first booklet in cite web|url=http://www.biblestudents.net/history/light_after_darkness.htm|title=Light After Darkness The June 20, 1917 meeting of the full board of directors tabled, for one month, a proposal to return control of the Society to the board (see Rutherford's "Harvest Siftings" under subheading "Seeds Begin to Bring Forth"), but Rutherford prevented the board from meeting again.] Matters reached a climax on July 17, 1917 as the book "The Finished Mystery" was released to the headquarters staff in Brooklyn. [cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC13089093&id=dDQSOQV2RBIC&printsec=titlepage&dq=editions:OCLC38151368|publisher=Watchtower|title=The Finished Mystery, published 1917, was called the seventh volume of "Studies in the Scriptures". [http://www.a2z.org/wtarchive/docs/The_Finished_Mystery.pdf PDF version of "The Finished Mystery"] ] Rutherford announced to the staff that he was also dismissing the four directors and replacing them with new members, claiming they had not been legally elected. [cite book|author=A.H. MacMillan|title=Faith on the March|pages=80|url=http://www.quotedstatements.com/FOTM.pdf|accessdate=2007-10-25. The ousted directors disagreed: "...if the directors were not legally elected, neither were the Society's three officers: Rutherford, Pierson, and Van Amburgh. In order to have been chosen officers in January 1917, they would have had to have been legally elected directors. Yet, they had not been, and hence, by Rutherford's own logic, did not hold office legally."—"Apocalypse Delayed", M. James Penton, p. 52] The four dismissed directors set up the Pastoral Bible Institute and began publishing their own religious journal. Dissension and schisms ensued in congregations worldwide as a result of these events, and of the consequences of new predictions made for the years 1918, ["Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity.'"—cite book|title=The Finished Mystery|year=1917|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=dDQSOQV2RBIC&pg=PA485&dq=editions:OCLC38151368|pages=485|publisher=Watchtower (later editions read differently)] 1920 ["And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy."cite book|title=The Finished Mystery|year=1917|pages=258|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=dDQSOQV2RBIC&pg=PA258&dq=editions:OCLC38151368|publisher=Watchtower. (This date was changed in later editions.)] and 1925. [cite book|title=Millions Now Living Will Never Die|url=http://www.strictlygenteel.co.uk/millions/millions.html| publisher=Watchtower|pages=88|year=1920. [http://cchasson.free.fr/deposit/booklet/1920_Millions_Now_Living_Will_Never_Die.pdf PDF version of book] This book was distributed as part of a major lecture program worldwide. See [http://www.theocraticlibrary.com/downloads/Millions_Campaign_News_Clippings.pdf News Clippings from the "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" Campaign (1919-1925)] ] [cite book| title=The Way to Paradise|publisher=Watchtower|url=http://www.a2z.org/wtarchive/docs/1924_Way_To_Paradise_Chapter_11.pdf|pages=220–235|year=1924]

"The Finished Mystery", published in 1917, was controversial in its criticism of Catholic and Protestant clergy and Christian involvement in war. ["The Finished Mystery" [http://www.strictlygenteel.co.uk/finishedmystery/fmr16.html pp. 247-253] [http://books.google.com/books?id=dDQSOQV2RBIC&pg=PA468&dq=editions:OCLC38151368 468] and [http://books.google.com/books?id=dDQSOQV2RBIC&pg=PA474&dq=editions:OCLC38151368 474] . See also [http://www.a2z.org/wtarchive/docs/1917_The_Fall_Of_Babylon.pdf "The Fall of Babylon"] , published in 1917, which contains extracts from "The Finished Mystery."] Citing this book, the United States federal government indicted Rutherford and the new board of directors for violating the "Espionage Act" on May 7, 1918. They were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. However, in March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed and they were released from prison. The charges were later dropped. [cite book|title=Apocalypse Delayed|author=M.J. Penton|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=38SYXalMLeQC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=apocalypse+delayed&sig=9rClKXiom_GcQPMLkgsCyoFYzws|pages=55–56 cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom|publisher=Watchtower|year=1993|pages=647-654 Rutherford gives his defense against the charges in cite book|title=Souvenir Report of the Bible Student's Convention (1919)|url=http://cchasson.free.fr/deposit/CR/1919convention.pdf|publisher=Watchtower|pages=62-63 and in the tract [http://www.strictlygenteel.co.uk/tracts/1919_Case_of_the_IBSA.pdf "The Case of the IBSA"] ] Patriotic fervor during World War I fueled persecution of the Bible Students both in America and in Europe. [cite journal|journal=The Golden Age|title=Distress of Nations: Cause, Warning, Remedy|pages=712–718|year=1920|month=September 29|url=http://www.a2z.org/wtarchive/docs/1920_Golden_Age.pdf]

An emphasis on house-to-house preaching began in 1922. [cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom|publisher=Watchtower|year=1993|pages=259–260] The period from 1925-1933 saw many significant changes in doctrine. Attendance at their yearly Memorial dropped from a high of 90,434 in 1925 [cite book|title=Your Will Be Done on Earth|publisher=Watchtower|year=1958|pages=337] down to 17,380 in 1928, [cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose|publisher=Watchtower|year=1959|pages=313] due to the previous power struggle, the failed predictions for the year 1925, [cite book|title=Apocalypse Delayed—The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses|author=M. James Penton|pages=61 Attendance at the annual Memorial (statistics were published each year in the "Watch Tower") shows the growth in the period before 1925. 1919: 17,961, 1922: 32,661, 1923: 42,000, 1924: 62,696, 1925: 90,434. 1926 marked the first decrease: 89,278. There are no published statistics from 1929-1934. In 1935, Memorial attendance was 63,146. cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=August 15, 1996|pages=31] and the evolving doctrinal changes which alienated those who sided with Russell's views. [See, for example, cite book|url=http://www.pastor-russell.com/legacy/wprd.pdf|title=When Pastor Russell Died|publisher=Dawn Bible Students Association|year=1946|pages=6-16] By 1933, 1914 was seen as the beginning of Christ's presence, his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days" instead of being considered the terminal date in their chronology. [cite book|title=The Harp of God|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Fjw3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA231|year=1921|pages=231–236 affirms that “the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874.” cite journal|title=Watchtower|pages=71|year=1922|month=March 1|publisher=Watchtower and cite book|title=Prophecy|pages=65–66|title=Prophecy|year=1930 reiterated this position. The eschatological changes during this period are documented in cite book|title=Historical Idealism and Jehovah's Witnesses|pages=3–37|author=Thomas Daniels|url=http://www.catholic-forum.com/members/popestleo/Historical%20Idealism%20and%20Jehovahs%20Witnesses.pdf|accessdate=2006-02-01 These are the current teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding 1914, 1918 and 1919. They no longer consider the dates 1799, 1874 and 1878 to have any eschatological significance] The editorial committee was disbanded with Rutherford having the final say regarding what went into Watchtower publications. ["A People For His Name" by Timothy White, pp. 186-188. "The Watchtower", June 15, 1938, p. 185] The offices and election of elders and deacons were also discontinued during this era with all "servants" in local congregations being appointed by headquarters. ["Proclaimers", p. 214. June 15, 1938 "Watchtower"]

During the Second World War, Jehovah's Witnesses experienced mob violence in America and were temporarily banned in Canada and Australia because they were perceived as being against the war effort. [cite book|title=The Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses|author=American Civil Liberties Union|url=http://www.theocraticlibrary.com/downloads/The_Persecution_of_Jehovah's_Witnesses_-_ACLU.pdf|year=1941|pages=1-24 cite book|title=Visions of Glory|author=Barbara Grizzuti Harrison|pages=185, 281|year=1978|url=http://www.exjws.net/vg.htm cite web|title=The Banning of Jehovah's Witnesses in Australia in 1941|url=http://www.tasa.org.au/conferencepapers05/papers%20(pdf)/religion_persian.pdf|author=Jayne Persian|date=December 2005]

Significant Supreme Court victories involving the rights of free speech and religion for Jehovah's Witnesses have had a great impact on legal interpretation of these rights for others. [Flynn Patrick J, Writing Their Faith into the Law of the Land: Jehovah's Witnesses, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the Meaning of the Free Exercise Clause, 1939-1945, Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, December 1, 2004] In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette that school children of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag.

During the 1960s [The year 1975 was first mentioned in 1966. See cite journal|title=How Much Longer Will It Be?|journal="Awake!"|year=1966|month=October 8|pages=17–20] and early 1970s, various references were made in Witnesses' literature and at assemblies, implying that Christ's thousand-year millennial reign might begin by 1975. [See [http://www.escapefromwatchtower.com/1975franz.html 1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT'] . Page 14 of the October 8, 1968 "Awake!" demonstrates the disclaimer that was made at the time: "Does this mean that the above evidence positively points to 1975 as the complete end of this system of things? Since the Bible does not specifically state this, no man can say...If the 1970s should see intervention by Jehovah God to bring an end to a corrupt world drifting toward ultimate disintegration, that should surely not surprise us."] The chronology pointing to 1975 was noted in the secular media at the time. [cite journal|title=Witnessing the End|year=1969|month=July 18|journal=Time|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901074-1,00.html|accessdate=2006-09-12] From 1975 to 1980, there was a drop in membership following the failure of this prediction. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Raymond Franz|chapter=1975—The Appropriate Time for God to Act|pages=237–253|url=http://web.archive.org/web/20031209184316/http://users.volja.net/izobcenec4/coc/9.pdf|accessdate=2006-07-27This drop in membership has been variously analyzed. Richard Singelenberg ( [http://www.watchtowerinformationservice.org/index.php/dates/the-1975-prophecy-and-its-impact-among-dutch-jehovahs-witnesses/ “The ‘1975'-prophecy and its impact among Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses”] ) in "Sociological Analysis" 50(1)1989, pp 23–40 notes a 9 per cent drop in total publishers (door-to-door preachers) and a 38 per cent drop in pioneers (full-time preachers) in the Netherlands. Stark and Iannoccone have analyzed the impact on US Witnesses. cite journal|title=The Journal of Contemporary Religion|article=Why the Jehovah's Witnesses Grow So Rapidly: A Theoretical Application|url=http://www.geocities.com/rogueactivex/JWGrow-O.pdf|year=1997|pages=142–143 The January 30, 1982 "Los Angeles Times" ("Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath: Critics say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth" by John Dart, p. B4) cited statistics showing a net increase of publishers worldwide from 1971–1981 of 737,241, while baptisms totaled 1.71 million for the same period.]

Benevolent societies

Benevolent societies were an extremely new and conspicuous feature of the American landscape during the first half of the nineteenth century. Originally devoted to the salvation of souls, although eventually to the eradication of every kind of social ill, benevolent societies were the direct result of the extraordinary energies generated by the evangelical movement—specifically, by the "activism" resulting from conversion. "The evidence of God's grace," Presbyterian evangelist Charles Grandison Finney insisted, "was a person's benevolence toward others."

The evangelical establishment used this powerful network of voluntary, ecumenical benevolent societies to Christianize the nation. The earliest and most important of these organizations focused their efforts on the conversion of sinners to the new birth or to the creation of conditions (such as sobriety sought by temperance societies) in which conversions could occur. The six largest societies in 1826-27 were all directly concerned with conversion: the American Education Society, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday-School Union, the American Tract Society, and the American Home Missionary Society.

Roman Catholicism

Catholicism first came to the territories now forming the United States before the Protestant Reformation with the Spanish explorers and settlers in present-day Florida (1513) and the southwest. The first Christian worship service held in the current United States was a Catholic Mass celebrated in Pensacola, FL.(St. Michael records) The influence of the Alta California missions (1769 and onwards) forms a lasting memorial to part of this heritage.

In the English colonies, Catholicism was introduced with the settling of Maryland in 1634; this colony offered a rare example of religious toleration in a fairly intolerant age, particularly amongst other English colonies which frequently exhibited a quite militant Protestantism. (See the Maryland Toleration Act, and note the pre-eminence of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Catholic circles.) However, at the time of the American Revolution, Catholics formed less than 1% of the population of the thirteen colonies.

The main source of Roman Catholics in the United States was the huge numbers of European immigrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These huge numbers of immigrant Catholics came from Ireland, Southern Germany, Italy, Poland and Eastern Europe. Substantial numbers of Catholics also came from French Canada during the mid-19th century and settled in New England. Since then, there has been cross-fertilization of the Catholic population as members of historically Catholic groups converted to various Protestant faiths, and vice-versa, with Catholics of (usually partial) English, Scottish, north German, Norwegian, or Swedish descent not uncommon.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the first attempt at standardizing discipline in the American Church occurred with the convocation of the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. These councils resulted in the Baltimore Catechism and the establishment of the Catholic University of America.

Modern Catholic immigrants come to the United States from the Philippines and Latin America, especially from Mexico. This multiculturalism and diversity has greatly impacted the flavor of Catholicism in the United States. For example, many dioceses serve the faithful in both the English language and the Spanish language. Also, when many parishes were set up in the United States, separate churches were built for parishioners from Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc. In Iowa, the development of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the work of Bishop Loras and the building of St. Raphael's Cathedral illustrate this point.

Some anti-immigrant and nativism movements, like the Know Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan, have also been anti-Catholic. Indeed for most of the history of the United States, Catholics have been persecuted. It was not until the Presidency of John F. Kennedy that Catholics lived in the U.S. free of scrutiny. The Ku Klux Klan ridden South discriminated against Catholics for their commonly Irish, Italian, Polish, or Spanish ethnicity, and the "righteous", Protestant North and Midwest labeled all Catholics as anti-American "Papists", incapable of free thought without the approval of their heir to St. Peter. This was done to keep "mongrel Catholic peoples" from having further success in their rapid assimilation into American society. It is during these times that Protestants gave Catholics some of their more disturbing nicknames like "paddy", "mick", and "dunkey" for the Irish, or "guinea", "wop", and "dago" for Italians.


John Highham described anti-Catholic bigotry as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history". [cite book | last = Jenkins | first = Philip | authorlink = Philip Jenkins | title = The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice | publisher = Oxford University Press |date= 1 April 2003 | pages = p. 23 | url = http://books.google.co.uk/books?vid=ISBN0195154800&id=p5SW0l7ciokC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&vq=%22the+most+luxuriant,+tenacious+tradition+of+paranoiac+agitation+in+American+history%22&sig=FsCCWxoF6gClThYcH8GY73i0zUE | id = ISBN 0-19-515480-0 ] The bigotry which was prominent in the United Kingdom was exported to the United States. Two types of anti-Catholic rhetoric existed in colonial society. The first, derived from the heritage of the Protestant Reformation and the religious wars of the sixteenth century, consisted of the "Anti-Christ" and the "Whore of Babylon" variety and dominated anti-Catholic thought until the late seventeenth century. The second was a more secular variety which focused on the supposed intrigue of the Roman Catholics intent on extending medieval despotism worldwide. [cite book | last = Mannard | first = Joseph G. | title = American Anti-Catholicism and its Literature |date=1981 | url = http://www.geocities.com/chiniquy/Literature.html ]

Harvard professor and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. characterized prejudice against the Catholics as "the deepest bias in the history of the American people" [ [http://faculty.francis.edu/aremillard/Pilot.htm"No You Don't, Mr. Pope!": A Brief History of Anti-Catholicism in America] , A Three Part Series Offered by the Saint Francis University's Catholic Studies at a Distance Program Delivered by Arthur Remillard, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. Saint Francis University CERMUSA website, retrieved May 2007] and Yale professor Peter Viereck once commented that "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals." [Herberg, Will. "Religion in a Secularized Society: Some Aspects of America's Three-Religion Pluralism", "Review of Religious Research", vol. 4 no. 1, Autumn, 1962, p. 37]


The roots of American anti-Catholicism go back to the Reformation, whose ideas about Rome and the papacy traveled to the New World with the earliest settlers. These settlers were, of course, predominantly Protestant. A large part of American culture is a legacy of Great Britain, and an enormous part of its religious culture a legacy of the English Reformation. Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, in his landmark book American Catholicism, first published in 1956, wrote bluntly that a "universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigorously cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia." Proscriptions against Catholics were included in colonial charters and laws, and, as Monsignor Ellis noted wryly, nothing could bring together warring Anglican ministers and Puritan divines faster than their common hatred of the church of Rome. Such antipathy continued throughout the 18th century. Indeed, the virtual penal status of the Catholics in the colonies made even the appointment of bishops nearly unthinkable in the early years of the Republic.

John Jay in 1788 urged the New York legislature to require officeholders to renounce foreign authorities "in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil." [http://www.archives.gov/nhprc/annotation/march-2002/religion-founding-fathers.html] .

The Catholic Church in the immediate post-revolutionary period did experience a modicum acceptance. Charles Carroll (a Catholic) had signed the Declaration of Independence and served in the Senate of the Republic. Charles' cousin John Carroll had been commissioned to Canada to garner support for the Revolution but without success. John Carroll was appointed as the first Bishop in the United States at about the same time the Republic was founded. The Carroll family was constituent of the tiny indigenous American Catholic community. The later reemergence of anti-Catholic sentiment was related to the first large scale immigration from Ireland.

Nineteenth century


By 1850 Catholics had become the country’s largest single religious denomination. And between 1860 and 1890 the population of Catholics in the United States tripled through immigration; by the end of the decade it would reach seven million. This influx, largely Irish and Italian, which would eventually bring increased political power for the Catholic Church and a greater cultural presence, led at the same time to a growing fear of the Catholic "menace." The American Protective Association, for example, formed in Iowa in 1887, sponsored popular countrywide tours of supposed ex-priests and "escaped" nuns, who concocted horrific tales of mistreatment and abuse.

As the nineteenth century wore on animosity waned, Protestant Americans realized that Roman Catholics were not trying to seize control of the government. Nonetheless, fears continued into the twentieth century that there was too much "Catholic influence" on the government, and presidents who met with the pope were criticized.

Twentieth century

By the beginning of the 20th century, approximately one-sixth of the population of the United States was Catholic. Nevertheless, the powerful influence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist organizations were typical of still-potent anti-Catholic sentiments.

During the 20th century, suspicion of the political aims and agenda of the Roman Catholic Church have been revived several times.

In 1928 the presidential candidacy of Al Smith was greeted with a fresh wave of anti-Catholic hysteria that contributed to his defeat. (It was widely rumored at the time that with the election of Mr. Smith the pope would take up residence in the White House and Protestants would find themselves stripped of their citizenship.)

As Charles R. Morris noted in his recent book American Catholic, the real mainstreaming of the church did not occur until the 1950’s and 1960’s, when educated Catholics—sons and daughters of immigrants—were finally assimilated into the larger culture. Even so, John F. Kennedy was confronted during his 1960 presidential campaign with old anti-Catholic biases. He eventually felt compelled to address explicitly concerns of his supposed "allegiance" to the Pope. Many Protestant leaders, such as Norman Vincent Peale, publicly opposed the candidacy because of Kennedy’s religion. And after the election, survey research by political scientists found that Kennedy had indeed lost votes because of his religion. Although most historians have argued that Kennedy's election eliminated anti-Catholic bias as a major factor in American life, it should be noted that, while several Catholics have been nominated for President, no Catholic has been elected President of the United States since Kennedy in 1960.

Twenty-first century

Philip Jenkins, an Episcopalian historian, in (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 0-19-515480-0) maintains that some people who otherwise avoid offending members of racial, religious, ethnic or gender groups have no reservations about venting their hatred of Catholics.

A May 12, 2006, Gallup states that 30% of Americans have an unfavourable view of the Roman Catholic faith with 57% having a favourable view. This is a higher unfavourability rate than in 2000, but considerably better than in 2002. While Protestants and Roman Catholics themselves had a majority with a favourable view, those who are not Christian or are irreligious had a majority with an unfavourable view, but in part this represented a negative view toward all Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church's doctrines, the priest sex abuse scandal, and "idolising saints" were top issues for those who disapproved. On the other hand greed, Roman Catholicism's view on homosexuality, and the celibate priesthood were low on the list of grievances for those who held an unfavourable view of Roman Catholicism. [http://poll.gallup.com/content/?ci=22783] That stated a more recent Gallup Poll indicated only 4% of Americans have a "very negative" view of Roman Catholics. [http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci=24385&pg=2]


The history of the Jews in the United States comprises a theological dimension, with a three-way division into Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. In social terms the Jewish community began with small groups of merchants in colonial ports such as New York City and Charleston. In the mid and late 19th century well-educated German Jews arrived and settled in cities across the United States. From 1880 to 1924 large numbers of Yiddish-speaking Jews arrived from Eastern Europe, settling in New York City and other large cities. After 1926 numbers came as refugees from Europe; after 1980 many came from the Soviet Union, and there has been a flow from Israel. By the year 1900 the 1.5 million Jews residing in the United States were the third most of any nation, behind Russia and Austria-Hungary. The proportion of the population has been about 2 to 3% since 1900, but in the 21st century Jews were widely diffused in major metropolitan areas in New York, South Florida, Philadelphia, California, New England, Ohio, and Illinois.


While antisemitism is always a problem for Jews living in a Christian society, antisemitism in the United States has always been weaker than its counterpart in Europe. While antisemitism in the United States has sometimes been expressed as physical violence against Jews, it has generally not been on the scale experienced by Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia. Some more notable cases of violence against Jews include the attack of Irish workers and police on the funeral procession of Rabbi Jacob Joseph in New York City in 1902, lynching of Leo Frank in 1915, assassination of Alan Berg in 1984, and the Crown Heights riots of 1991.

In the first half of 1900s, Jews were discriminated against in some employment, not allowed into some social clubs and resort areas, given a quota on enrollment at colleges, and not allowed to buy certain properties.

In the first half of the twentieth century, in the USA, Jews were discriminated against in employment, access to residential and resort areas, membership in clubs and organizations, and in tightened quotas on Jewish enrollment and teaching positions in colleges and universities. The Leo Frank lynching by a mob of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia in 1915 turned the spotlight on antisemitism in the United States and led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. The case was also used to build support for the renewal of the Ku Klux Klan which had been inactive since 1870.

Antisemitism in America reached its peak during the interwar period. The pioneer automobile manufacturer Henry Ford propagated antisemitic ideas in his newspaper "The Dearborn Independent". The radio speeches of Father Coughlin in the late 1930s attacked Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and the notion of a Jewish financial conspiracy.

In the 1940s the aviator Charles Lindbergh and many prominent Americans led The America First Committee in opposing any involvement in the war against Fascism. During his July 1936 visit he wrote letters saying that there was “more intelligent leadership in Germany than is generally recognized.”

America First avoided any appearance of antisemitism and voted to drop Henry Ford as a member for as much. Ford continued his good friendship with the prominent America First member Lindbergh. Lindbergh visited Ford in the summer of 1941. “One month later; Lindbergh gave a speech in Des Moines, Iowa in which he expressed the decidedly Ford-like view that, ‘The three most important groups which have been pressing this country towards war are the British, the Jews, and the Roosevelt Administration.’” In an expurgated portion of his published diaries Lindbergh wrote: “We must limit to a reasonable amount the Jewish influence….Whenever the Jewish percentage of total population becomes too high, a reaction seems to invariably occur. It is too bad because a few Jews of the right type are, I believe, an asset to any country.”

The German American Bund held parades in New York City in the late 1930s which featured Nazi uniforms and flags featuring swastikas alongside American flags. The zenith of the Bund's history occurred 1939 at Madison Square Garden. Some 20,000 people heard Bund leader Fritz Kuhn criticize President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by repeatedly referring to him as “Frank D. Rosenfeld”, calling his New Deal the "Jew Deal", and espousing his belief in the existence of a Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy in America. The New York district attorney prosecuted Kuhn. The US House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) were very active in denying their ability to operate. With the start of the US involvement in World War II most of the Bund's members were placed in internment camps, and some were deported at the end of the war.

Sometimes, during race riots, as in Detroit in 1943, Jewish businesses were targeted for looting and burning.

Denominations and sects founded in the U.S.

* Adventism - began as an inter-denominational movement. Its most vocal leader was William Miller, who in the 1830s in New York became convinced of an imminent Second Coming of Jesus.
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) - founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830 in New York. Now headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
* Christian Science - founded by Mary Baker Eddy
* Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ - a restoration movement with no governing body. The Restoration Movement solidified as a historical phenomenon in 1832 when restorationists from two major movements championed by Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell merged (referred to as the "Stone-Campbell Movement").
* Episcopal Church in the United States - founded as an offshoot of the Church of England; now the United States branch of the Anglican Communion
* Jehovah's Witnesses - originated with the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in Pennsylvania in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell.
* Kemetic Orthodoxy - a new religious practice based on the Ancient Egyptian beliefs, founded by Tamara Siuda.
* Pentecostalism - movement which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, finds its historic roots in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, from 1904 to 1906, sparked by Charles Parham
* Scientology - founded by L. Ron Hubbard
* Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist group in the world and the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. In 1995, it renounced its 1845 origins in the defense of slavery and racial superiority.
* Unitarian Universalism - a theologically liberal religious movement founded in 1961 from the union of the well established Unitarian and Universalist churches.
* United Church of Christ - descended from Congregationalist churches of New England; formed in 1957 as a united and uniting church from a union of the Congregational Christian Church and Evangelical and Reformed Church

ee also

*Religion in the United States
*Religious affiliations of United States Presidents
*Separation of church and state in the United States
*Freedom of religion in the United States
*First Amendment to the United States Constitution
*Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
*Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment
*Episcopal Church in the United States of America
*Roman Catholicism in the United States



*Sydney Ahlstrom, "A Religious History of the American People", Yale University Press, 1972, ISBN 0-300-01762-6, 2nd edition 2004, ISBN 0-300-10012-4
*Harold Bloom, "The American Religion", Simon & Schuster, 1992, ISBN 0-671-86737-7

External links

* [http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/religion.html U.S. Library of Congress religion exhibit]

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