Sacred Liberty offers a dramatic, sweeping survey of how America built a unique model of religious freedom, perhaps the nation’s “greatest invention.” Steven Waldman, the bestselling author of Founding Faith, shows how early ideas about religious liberty were tested and refined amidst the brutal persecution of Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Quakers, African slaves, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. American leaders drove religious freedom forward--figures like James Madison, George Washington, the World War II presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) and even George W. Bush. But the biggest heroes were the regular Americans – people like Mary Dyer, Marie Barnett and W.D. Mohammed -- who risked their lives or reputations by demanding to practice their faiths freely.
Just as the documentary Eyes on the Prize captured the rich drama of the civil rights movement, Sacred Liberty brings to life the remarkable story of how America became one of the few nations in world history that has religious freedom, diversity and high levels of piety at the same time. Finally, Sacred Liberty provides a roadmap for how, in the face of modern threats to religious freedom, this great achievement can be preserved.
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About the Author
STEVEN WALDMAN is the national bestselling author of Founding Faith and the co-founder of Beliefnet, the award-winning multifaith website. He is now co-founder and President of Report for America, a national service program that places talented journalists into local newsrooms. His writings have also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, National Review, Christianity Today, The Atlantic, First Things, The Washington Monthly, Slate, The New Republic and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Amy Cunningham.
Table of Contents
The long march to religious freedom.
1 Failed Experiments 11
For more than two hundred years, the American colonies try traditional approaches to religious tolerance. It does not go well.
2 Madison's Model 25
James Madison helps craft the Constitution, the First Amendment, and an ingeniously counterintuitive theory of religious freedom.
3 The Startup Boom 49
The state religious establishments collapse and religious fervor erupts.
4 The Romish Threat 65
America confronts a flammable question: Should religious freedom apply to Catholics?
5 The Religious Freedom of Slaves 81
African spirituality and Islam are purged, creating a "spiritual holocaust."
6 The Divine Plan 89
Real religious freedom exists because of the Fourteenth Amendment, which exists because of Representative John Bingham, a devout Christian on a special mission.
7 The Mormon Challenge 97
The astonishing American war on Mormonism reveals the shallowness of the nineteenth-century commitment to religious freedom.
8 Kill the Indian, Christianize the Man 119
The efforts to help Native Americans include the campaign to ban their spiritual practices and convert their children to Christianity.
9 The KKK, Al Smith, and the Fight for the Public Schools 141
The surge in Catholic immigration prompts an ugly Protestant backlash.
10 The Witnesses 163
A tiny, reviled, and obnoxious American religion forces the nation to define what religious liberty really means.
11 World War II and the Judeo-Christians 177
To defeat Hitler and the Communists, America elevates and redefines religious freedom and invites Jews to the table.
12 Enter the Supreme Court 197
The full power of the First Amendment is finally felt as the Court becomes a major player.
13 "Alien Blood" 215
Millions of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists enter America-transforming the dynamics of religious freedom-thanks to the immigration act of 1965.
14 Political Bedfellows 227
The poison gets drained from the Protestant-Catholic relationship-in part because of the rise of the religious right.
15 The "War" on "Christianity" 239
Evangelical Christians go from "moral majority" to persecuted minority.
16 All-American Islam 257
Muslims are on their way to becoming the latest fully mainstreamed American religion. Until 9/11.
17 "An Enemy Inside Our Perimeter" 271
A major attack on religious freedom is launched against American Muslims, accelerated by a new kind of media and a new kind of leader.
18 Preserving Religious Freedom 301
Why it took so long, how we might lose it, and how we can save it.
Captions, Permissions, and Credits 389