The Constitution of the United States guaranteed the freedom of religion to all Americans. As the new nation grew, it became a home and haven for people of different faiths and creeds. In its early years, however, the majority of Americans considered themselves Christians, although they belonged to a wide range of denominations. Native Americans belonged to religions developed in their own cultures, worshipping the "Great Spirit." A small minority of Americans worshipped according to the laws and practices of Judaism. A growing number of Americans followed the rationalist sects of Unitarianism and Deism. Religious issues were debated vigorously. Although some Americans were persecuted for their beliefs, they were able to stand for their First Amendment privilege to believe what they wanted to believe. There was more religious freedom available in the United States than in most parts of the world.
Christianity and Christian Sects
A number of changes occurred in the various Protestant denominations after the Revolutionary War. The Church of England in America was renamed the Episcopal Church. In 1787, it received three accredited American bishops, thus maintaining the episcopal succession. Methodist leaders Francis Ashbury and Thomas Coke broke off from English control, much to founder John Wesley's dismay, and worked to establish a broader and more secure Methodist foothold in the U.S. Baptists also gained credibility after the war, because of their active and conspicuous patriotism. In 1779, they had began admitting black slaves to membership. Black churches, which had begun to form in the Revolutionary Period, spread after the American Revolution. Black Baptist churches, A.M.E. churches, and other religious organizations were established throughout the North, South and West. Other Protestant denominations in the US included the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, German Reformed, the Moravians and the Mennonites. The Universalist Movement also began gathering followers, including Benjamin Rush and Rev. Charles Chauncy. Universalists believed that all men and women would eventually be saved.
Although New England Calvinists retained their influence, that influence was threatened by other Protestant denominations. The Calvinist view was that salvation was only available for a select few. In contrast; the Methodists, Baptists and other reformed Protestant churches taught that salvation was available for all. The Episcopal Church were still fighting their perceived link to Britain. Nevertheless, many in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states joined the Episcopals because their doctrines and standards were less strict than those of the Calvinists.
The influences of Enlightenment Rationalism was keenly felt in a number of religious/philosophical sects which grew out of Christianity. One such sect, which gradually became popular in New England, was Unitarianism. Considerably more radical than the Universalists, the Unitarians believed in the unity of God; rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; promoted freedom of religion and tolerance of different beliefs; and emphasized the role of reason in interpreting religious history, texts and experience. Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became something of a center for Unitarians. Another popular sect, Deism, grew in popularity. Thomas Paine's Age of Reason, published in 1796, became a classic for believers in Rationalism and Deism. Deists believed in the existence of God, based solely on the evidence of reason and nature. They rejected the idea of supernatural revelation. Among the more prominent Deists was Benjamin Franklin.
Two other important sects were the Quakers and the Shakers. The Society of Friends, whose members were called Quakers by outsiders, was founded in England around 1650 by George Fox. Quakers had a significant presence in Pennsylvania. They emphasized simplicity in worship, and spent much of their worship time in quiet meditation. Opposed to oath-taking and war, they were sometimes abused for refusing to take part in military service. Many Quakers became wealthy merchants, exerting a strong influence on cities like Philadelphia. Many Quakers freed their slaves, and were among the leading abolitionists. The Shakers belonged to the Millennial Church, formally called the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. Founded by Ann Lee in England, the believers came to America in 1774 almost as an intact group. They hailed Lee as "Mother Ann," the second incarnation of God. Shakers were celibate, recognized both genders as completely equal, owned property in common and lived lives of strict simplicity. They became known as the "Shakers" because of the ecstatic nature of their worship. The sect grew tremendously in New York in the 1790s, and survive to the present day.
Although most Americans who called themselves Christians belonged to Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church had established a presence in the United States. In 1794, there were only about 35,000 Catholics in the United States. They were slowly accepted in states other than Maryland, but many, especially the Irish, about 75% of whom were Catholic and many of whom were poor, were persecuted. Some Irish Catholic immigrants were or became wealthy, especially in New York and Philadelphia. Many became only nominal Catholics, and others joined Protestant denominations, since there were few Catholic churches or priests in America, and much of the Catholic faith depends of the presence of both churches and priests.
After the turn of the century, however, more religious opportunities became available for American Catholics. Father John Carroll became the first American Roman Catholic archbishop in 1808. In 1810, Elizabeth Seton and the group which would become the Sisters of Charity, founded the first American Catholic parochial school, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Two years later, Mother Catherine Spaulding founded the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY, an order of nurses and teachers.
One of the factors contributing to the growth of American churches beyond the Congregationalist and Episcopal Churches was the decline in state sponsoring. In 1776, nine out of the thirteen colonies had state-sponsored churches. The Constitution, however, mandated that there could be no establishment of a state religion. Starting with Virginia in 1786, states across the South began disestablishing the Episcopal Church. Congregationalists in New England generally maintained a favored status for that denomination. An exception to this was Connecticut, which voted in 1818 to cut off tax support from the Congregational Church.
In 1786, due to the influence of Thomas Jefferson, Virginia passed the Statute of Religious Liberty. The Statute of Religious Liberty established the separation of church and state; and assured religious tolerance. Other states began adopting such measures, as well. Thus, Jewish Americans were able to enjoy more religious freedom than perhaps anywhere else in the world. Despite the assertions of equality in the Declaration of Independence, Jews were not allowed to vote in most states. Beyond this, however, the law entitled most Jews to enjoy most benefits of citizenship. One Jewish American, Jonas Phillips, presented a proposal for religious equality to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. As a result of delegate's discussions, the Constitution protected Americans from being subjected to any religious test to qualify them for any public office or trust. In addition, the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed Americans the right to free exercise of religion.
Jewish Americans took advantage of their right to enter public service. In 1801, David Emanuel became Governor of Georgia. In 1809, Jacob Henry of North Carolina was elected to the state legislature. Although his right, as a Jew, to sit in the legislature was challenged, he prevailed.
George Washington maintained good relations to several Jewish Americans. In 1790, he sent a letter to the Jewish Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, after visiting that city. In expressing his goodwill to the congregation, he wrote: "May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants." In 1793, when Washington was fleeing the yellow fever plague in the national capital of Philadelphia; he was hosted by Isaac Frank, a Jewish American with an estate in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Jewish Americans made significant contributions to the new nation in many different fields. One area in which many served was medicine. In 1796, Dr. Isaac Jacobi invented the laryngoscope. He was later called the "father of pediatrics" for his medical work with children. Levy Myers served as the Apothecary-General of South Carolina in 1799. One of the 1804 incorporators of the Georgia Medical Society, Moses Sheftal, was Jewish; as was one of the founders of the New York Medical Society in 1806, Dr. Joel Hart.
Jewish Americans were also involved in building the nation economically. Ephraim Hart was one of 22 organizers of the first Board of Brokers, which later became the New York Stock Exchange. Hart later became a partner of John Jacob Astor, one of the most successful American businessmen of the period. Harmon Hendricks, another Jewish American, built the first copper rolling mill in the United States; in Soho, New Jersey.
During the War of 1812, Jewish Americans served in various military capacities. Captain Mordecai Myers of New York led a charge against the British in 1812. Myers' victory took place at Chrysler's Farm, near Williamsburg, Virginia. Captain Uriah P. Levy was another Jewish American military hero of the War of 1812.
When the First Amendment was ratified in 1791, the establishment clause prohibited a national church. But established churches still existed in many states. For example, the Congregational Church was established by early Puritans in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, a structure those states retained until the 1800s. (Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hamphshire, dating to 1638 by John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Although the establishment clause of the First Amendment clearly prohibits the creation of a national church, when the amendment was ratified in 1791 it did not eliminate established churches in those states where they still existed indeed, it would have encountered opposition in those states if it had sought to do so.
History of Religious Liberty in America
From the Colonial era to the present, religions and religious beliefs have played a significant role in the political life of the United States. Religion has been at the heart of some of the best and some of the worst movements in American history. The guiding principles that the framers intended to govern the relationship between religion and politics are set forth in Article VI of the
Constitution and in the opening 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Now that America has expanded from the largely Protestant pluralism of the 17th century to a nation of some 3,000 religious groups, it is more vital than ever that every citizen understand the appropriate role of religion in public life and affirm the constitutional guarantees of religious liberty, or
freedom of conscience, for people of all faiths and none.
The philosophical ideas and religious convictions of Roger Williams, William Penn, John Leland, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other leaders were decisive in the struggle for freedom of conscience. The United States is a nation built on ideals and convictions that have become basic democratic principles. These principles must be understood and affirmed by every generation if the American experiment in liberty is to endure.
FRAME OF REFERENCE
I. Conceptual perspective
A. The central place of faith in the idea of religion.
The radical pluralism of faiths in the United States today makes it difficult to define religion without excluding religions that may not fit a chosen definition. If, however, citizens are to understand the role of religion in American public life and support religious liberty for all, they need to appreciate that faith is of central importance to many Americans.
B. The centrality of religion in the lives of many Americans.
Without defining what religion is, we can, for purposes of civic understanding, focus on what religion does in the lives of believers. Ultimate beliefs and worldviews shape the lives of many people because they are regarded as the deepest source of meaning and belonging. In the United States, arguably the most religious of all the industrialized nations, religious beliefs are at the center of life for millions of Americans. These beliefs are not confined to worship and family life they also shape the political and social views of vast numbers of citizens.
1. The expansion of religious pluralism. The United States has moved beyond the largely Protestant pluralism of its early history to a pluralism that includes almost every religious expression in the world. This expanding diversity presents new challenges for American public life.
2. Religious liberty as freedom of conscience for all, including nonbelievers. A growing number of people in the United States express no religious preference at all. Any discussion of pluralism and the role of religion in public life, therefore, must include secularists, humanists, nonbelievers and others who do not profess any religious beliefs.
C. The protection of religion in its broadest sense.
The Supreme Court has accepted the necessity of broad recognition of worldviews (and the dangers of too narrow a definition of religion) by giving conscientious objector status to those who have “a sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualifying for the exemption …” ( U.S. v. Seeger, 1965).
1. No one excluded from protection. The important point for citizens tokeep in mind is that religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, was intended by the framers to protect the beliefs of everyone, not just those of recognized faith communities.
2. The American experiment in religious liberty. Religious liberty in America is a key part of the boldest and most successful experiment in freedom the world has known. The strength and diversity of religion in the United States is due almost entirely to the full protection of religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, guaranteed by the Constitution.
D. Religious liberty as the “first liberty.”
Religious liberty has been called America’s “first liberty” because freedom of the mind is logically and philosophically prior to all other freedoms protected by the Constitution.
1. Definition of religious liberty. In the American experiment, religious liberty is defined according to the following elements:
2. Freedom of conscience. There shall be full freedom of conscience for people of all faiths or no faith.
3. Religious liberty, an inalienable right. Religious liberty is considered to be a natural or inalienable right that must always be beyond the power of the state to confer or remove.
4. Right to practice any or no religion. Religious liberty includes the right to freely practice any religion or no religion without government coercion or control.
E. Guarantees of religious liberty in the Constitution.
The guiding principles supporting the definition of religious liberty are set forth in Article VI of the Constitution and in the opening words of the First Amendment to the Constitution. These principles have become the ground rules by which people of all religions and none can live together as citizens of one nation.
1. Article VI of the Constitution. Article VI concludes with these words:“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” With this bold stroke, the framers broke with European tradition and opened public office in the federal government to people of any faith and no faith.
2. Religious-liberty clauses. The First Amendment’s religious-liberty clauses state that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… .” Taken together, these two clauses safeguard religious liberty by protecting religions and religious convictions from government interference or control. They ensure that religious belief or non-belief remains voluntary, free from government coercion.
a. State and local government included. The clauses apply equally to actions of both state and local governments, because the Supreme Court has ruled that the 14th Amendment’s dictum that states are not to deprive any person of liberty makes the First Amendment applicable to the states.
b. Meaning of “no establishment.” “No establishment” means that neither a state nor the federal government can establish a particular religion or religion in general. Further, government is prohibited from advancing or supporting religion. This does not mean that the government can be hostile to religion. The government must maintain what the Supreme Court has called “benevolent neutrality,” which permits religious exercise to exist but denies it government sponsorship. The no-establishment clause serves to prevent both religious control over government and political control over religion.
c. Meaning of “free exercise.” “Free exercise” is the freedom of every citizen to reach, hold, practice and change beliefs according to the dictates of conscience. The free-exercise clause prohibits government interference with religious belief and, within limits, religious practice.
i. The difference between belief and practice. The Supreme Court has interpreted “free exercise” to mean that any individual may believe anything he or she wants, but there may be times when the state can limit or interfere with practices that flow from these beliefs.
ii. The traditional “compelling interest” test. Traditionally, the Court has required a government to demonstrate a compelling interest of the “highest order” before it can burden or otherwise interfere with religious conduct. Even then, the government has to demonstrate that it has no alternative means of achieving its interest that would be less restrictive of religious conduct.
iii. The debate over the “compelling interest” test. A 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, states that government no longer has to demonstrate a compelling government interest unless a law is specifically targeted at a religious practice or infringes upon an additional constitutional right, such as free speech. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, restored the compelling-interest test and ensured its application in all cases where religious exercise is substantially burdened. In June 1997, the Supreme Court struck the act down, holding that Congress had overstepped its bounds by forcing states to provide more protection for religious liberty than the First Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Smith, requires.
iv. Several states have responded to this situation by enacting state versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In an attempt to protect the free exercise of religion, these new laws require the compelling-interest test as a matter of state law. (The following have state RFRAs as of Aug. 25, 2002: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas.)
v. Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. This act is designed to protect religious assemblies and institutions from land-use restrictions burdening their property, and to protect the right of institutionalized persons to practice their faith.
F. Religion, public life and politics.
The First Amendment separated church from state but not religion from public life.
1. The involvement of religious groups in public life. Many religious groups consider it an article of faith to speak out on issues of moral concern in the public sphere. The Constitution protects the right of religious individuals and organizations to attempt to shape public policy and to exercise their influence. There are presently hundreds of nonprofit groups concerned with religious issues and public life in the United States.
2. Tax-exempt status dependent on non-partisanship. However, religious organizations that are exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code may not engage in partisan politics by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office or by spending a substantial amount of their resources lobbying Congress.
3. Religious liberty and political responsibility. In certain cases, the injection of religious views into political debate, though constitutionally protected, may be irresponsible.
a. Religious views in political debate are protected. In the American experiment in self-government, disestablishment of religion, or separation of church and state, prevents religious institutions from establishing their faith as the law of the land and from receiving financial support from the state. At the same time, “free exercise” protects the right of religious views to be part of the political debate.
b. Religious attacks in political debate may be irresponsible. It is important to remember, however, that some actions taken by religious organizations or individuals in the political arena (for example, attacks against the fitness of people to hold public office because of their religion) may not be unconstitutional but may be politically irresponsible violations of the spirit of religious liberty.
II. Historical perspective
The relationship of politics and religion has been a central issue in American life since the Colonial era. For most of the European settlers who came to North America in the 17th century from England, France and Spain — all nations with established churches — a society without an established faith was unimaginable.
The unity and morality of the community, it was believed, depended upon divine sanction of political authority and conformity of the populace in matters of faith. Eventually, however, by separating religion and government and by granting freedom to all religious groups, America launched a new political experiment unprecedented in the world’s history.
A. The religious liberty sought by the Puritans.
Like many who arrived on these shores in the 17th century, the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay came to America seeking religious freedom.
- Religious freedom not sought for others. The freedom they sought, however,was for themselves and not for others. The Puritans felt called by God toestablish “new Israel,” a holy commonwealth based on a covenant between God and themselves as the people of God.
- All laws to be grounded in God’s law. Though there were separate areas of authority for church and state in Puritan Massachusetts, all laws of the community were to be grounded in God’s law and all citizens were expected to uphold the divine covenant. Massachusetts was to be an example to the world of God’s kingdom on Earth, “a City upon a hill.”
B. Roger Williams and the origins of freedom of conscience in Puritan America.
Very early in the Massachusetts experiment, dissenters arose to challenge the Puritan vision of a holy society. The first dissenter, Roger Williams (c.1603-1683), was himself a Puritan minister but with a very different vision of God’s plan for human society. Williams argued that God had not given divine sanction to the Puritan colony. In his view, the civil authorities of Massachusetts had no authority to involve themselves in matters of faith. The true church, according to Williams, was a voluntary association of God’s elect. Any state involvement in the worship or God, therefore, was contrary to the divine will and inevitably led to the defilement of the church.
- “Soul liberty” means freedom of conscience for all. Williams’ arguments for religious liberty had two principal parts.
a. Freedom of conscience as God’s will. Central to Roger Williams’arguments for separating church and state was his conviction that it was divinewill that every individual’s conscience remain free to accept or reject the word of God. Williams defined freedom of conscience, which he called “soul liberty,” as the freedom of each person to follow his or her own heart in matters of faith without interference or coercion by the state.
b. Religious intolerance and war. Citing Europe’s long history of wars and divisions, Williams pointed out that coercion in matters of faith inevitably leads to persecution and bloodshed.
2. Rhode Island’s experiment in religious liberty. Williams found it necessary to seek religious liberty outside of Massachusetts Bay.
a. The founding of Rhode Island. Banished from Massachusetts in 1635,Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, the first colony with no established church and the first society in America to grant liberty of conscience to everyone. Jews, Quakers and others not welcome elsewhere made their home there.
b. The wider significance of Rhode Island’s religious liberty.Eventually, Williams’ conception of soul liberty had an impact far beyond the Rhode Island experiment. In the 18th century, dissenting religious groups, particularly the Baptists, were inspired by Williams’ ideas to advocate disestablishment and freedom of conscience. Some historians also argue that Williams’ writings influenced the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), a key source for Thomas Jefferson’s views concerning religious liberty.
3. Freedom of conscience as an American conviction. The Puritans’ demand for religious liberty for themselves became, in the vision of Roger Williams, a requirement of religious liberty for all.
a. Early religious liberty outside Rhode Island. This revolutionary idea was echoed to a lesser degree (and for only a brief period) in 17th-century Maryland and later, more fully, in the 18th-century “holy experiment” of Quaker William Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania.
b. Gradual extension of religious liberty. Gradually, the extension of liberty to include not only one’s own group but also others, even those withwhom “we” disagree, became a central American conviction. It is this principle of full freedom for people of all faiths and of none that was embodied 150 years later in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
C. The movement toward religious liberty in the United States.
The momentous decision by the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to prohibit religious establishment on the federal level and to guarantee free exercise of religion was related to a number of religious, political and economic factors in 18th-century America. Underlying all of these factors, of course, was the practical difficulty of establishing any one faith in an emerging nation composed of a multiplicity of faiths (mostly Protestant sects), none of which was strong enough to dominate the others.
- From toleration to free exercise. The period between 1776 and the passage ofthe First Amendment in 1791 saw critical changes in fundamental ideas about religious freedom.
a. The Virginia Declaration of Rights. In May 1776, just before theDeclaration of Independence, the leaders of Virginia adopted the VirginiaDeclaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason. The first draft of the declaration argued for the “fullest toleration in the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience.” This language echoed the writings of John Locke and the movement in England toward toleration.
b. Madison’s objection: “toleration” vs. “free exercise.” Although toleration was a great step forward, a 25-year-old delegate named James Madison(1751-1836) did not think it went far enough. Madison, also deeply influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, successfully argued that “toleration” should be changed to “free exercise” of religion. This seemingly small change in language signaled a revolutionary change in ideas. For Madison, religious liberty was not a concession by the state or the established church, but an inalienable or natural right of every citizen.
2. “Free exercise and the First Amendment.” In 1791, the free exercise of religion proclaimed in the Virginia Declaration became a part of the First Amendment, guaranteeing all Americans freedom of conscience.
D. From establishment to separation.
The decisive battle for disestablishment came in the large and influential colony of Virginia, where the Anglican Churchwas the established faith. Once again, James Madison played a pivotal role by leading the fight that persuaded the Virginia Legislature to adopt in 1786 Thomas Jefferson’s “Bill for the Establishment of Religious Freedom.”
1. Madison, Jefferson and the struggle for disestablishment. Madison and Jefferson argued that state support for a particular religion or for allreligions is wrong, because compelling citizens to support through taxes a faith they do not follow violates their natural right to religious liberty. “Almighty God had created the mind free,” declared Jefferson’s bill. Thus, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
2.The “Great Awakening” and the struggle for disestablishment. Madison and Jefferson were greatly aided in the struggle for disestablishment by theBaptists, Presbyterians, Quakers and other “dissenting” faiths of Anglican Virginia. The religious revivals of the 18th century, often called the Great Awakening (1728-1790), produced new forms of religious expression and belief that influenced the development of religious liberty throughout the Colonies. The revivalists’ message of salvation through Christ alone evoked a deeply personal and emotional response in thousands of Americans.
3. Evangelical fervor and religious self-government. The evangelical fervor of the Awakening cut across denominational lines and undercut support forthe privileges of the established church.
a.Support of religious choice by evangelicals. Religion was seen by many as a matter of free choice and churches as places of self-government. The alliance ofchurch and state was now seen by many as harmful to the cause of religion.
b. Leadership in Virginia of John Leland. In Virginia this climate of dissentand the leadership of such religious leaders as John Leland, a Baptist, providedthe crucial support Madison needed to win the battle for religious liberty in Virginia.
4. The final demise of religious establishment. The successful battlefor disestablishment in Virginia is a vital chapter in the story of religiousliberty in America. By the time of the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, all of the other Anglican establishments (except in Maryland) were ended. The Congregational establishments of New England lasted longer. Not until 1818 in Connecticut and 1833 in Massachusetts were the state constitutions amended to complete disestablishment.
E. The constitutional prohibition of religious tests for office in Article VI.
The only mention of religion in the Constitution of the United States prior to the adoption of the First Amendment was the “no religious test” provision of Article VI. The significance of this often-forgotten provision cannot be exaggerated. At the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most of the Colonies still had religious establishments or religious tests for office. It was unimaginable to many Americans that non-Protestants — Catholics, Jews, atheists and others — could be trusted with public office.
1. “No religious test” proposed at the Constitutional Convention. One aspect of religious liberty was inserted into the Constitution during its framing in Philadelphia.
a. The role of Charles Pinckney. At the Constitutional Convention,Charles Pinckney (1757-1824), a delegate from South Carolina, proposed that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Though he came from a state that had established the Protestant faith as the state religion, Pinckney represented the new spirit of religious liberty exemplified in the Enlightenment thinking of Jefferson.
b. A tool for oppression outlawed. Remarkably, the “no religious test”provision passed with little dissent. For the first time in history, a nation had formally abolished one of the most powerful tools of the state for oppressing religious minorities.
2. Religious tests imposed in some states. Most states followed the federal example and abolished tests for state office. But it was not until 1868 in North Carolina, 1946 in New Hampshire, and 1961 in Maryland that religious tests were abolished entirely. Maryland had required since 1867 “a declaration of belief in God” for all officeholders. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this requirement in its 1961 decision in Torcaso v. Watkins, freedom of conscience was fully extended to include non-believers as well as believers. No religious test can be imposed for any office at any level of government.
3. Informal religious tests a factor in elections. Though the Constitution barred religious tests as a formal qualification for office, many American voters continued to apply informal religious tests in the political arena, particularly in presidential elections.
a. Exclusion of Catholics. Until the nomination of Al Smith in 1928,all presidential and vice presidential candidates nominated by the two parties were Protestants. In 1960, the election of John Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, broke the informal political barrier that had long excluded non-Protestants from the presidency.
b. Religious dissension among Protestants. Even with Protestantcandidates, religion has frequently been an issue. Beginning with attacks on the Deist religious convictions of Thomas Jefferson (Deism is a faith based on reason rather than revelation) and continuing to the recent discussions about which candidate is “born again,” questions about the “correctness” of a politician’s religion have played an important role in many national elections.
c. Another barrier falls. In the 2000 presidential campaign, Sen.Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., ran as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate. An Orthodox Jew, Lieberman spoke openly of his faith. The fact that Lieberman was Jewish appeared to have little or no effect on the outcome of the election.
F. The First Amendment principles of religious liberty.
In the mind of James Madison and some of the others at the Constitutional Convention, the Constitution established a limited federal government with no authority to act in religious matters. That others were unsure had momentous consequences.
- Reassurance for those fearful of religious intolerance. Many Americans,including leaders of the Baptists and other religious groups, feared that the Constitution offered an insufficient guarantee of the civil and religious rights of citizens.
a. Madison’s promise of a bill of rights. Many of those who suspected the proposed new constitution demanded a bill of rights as their price of moderating their heated opposition to its adoption. To win ratification, Madison promised to propose a bill of rights in the First Congress.
b. The enshrinement of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights. Madison kept his promise, and the religious-liberty clauses adopted by the First Congress in 1789 became, when ratified by the required number of states in 1791, the opening words of the Bill of Rights.
2. Religious liberty and the first principles of American liberty. Full religious liberty was first applied to acts of the federal government alone.Later it was applied to the states as well.
a. The First Amendment and the federal government. With the passage ofthe First Amendment, the principles of non-establishment and free exercisebecame the first principles of American freedom. The federal government was constitutionally prohibited from establishing or sponsoring religion and prohibited from interfering with the natural right of every citizen to reach, hold, exercise or change beliefs freely.
b. The First Amendment and state governments. These prohibitions were extended to the states in the 20th century, following Supreme Court rulings that the 14th Amendment made the First Amendment applicable to the states.
G. Religious influences in American political life.
Disestablishment was never meant to keep religious beliefs or institutions from influencing public life. From the beginning of American history, religions and religious believers have played a central role in shaping public policy and political debate.
- De facto Protestant establishment. For many Protestants in the 19th century,disestablishment meant an end to the coercive power of the state in matters of faith and barred any faith from becoming the legally established religion. But disestablishment did not extinguish the Protestant vision of creating and maintaining a “Christian America.” By numbers and influence, Protestantism became the de facto established religion of the nation. Many no doubt agreed with Daniel Webster when he argued in 1844 that “general tolerant Christianity is the law of the land.”
2. Protestant contributions to social reform. The close ties between Protestant churches and American culture led to many social and political reforms. This can most clearly be seen in the “Second Great Awakening” of the early 19th century, when some Protestant leaders mounted a crusade to reform and revitalize America. Urban social work, schooling for poor children, the abolitionist movement, supported by Quakers, Methodists and others, were only a few of the many reform movements inspired in large measure by the religious awakenings.
3. Nativist reaction to expanding pluralism. A dark side to the Protestant vision of America became evident in the 19th century.
a. The effects of immigration. The waves of immigrants coming to these shores in the 19th century challenged the Protestant domination of the culture.By 1850 Catholicism was the largest single American denomination, and by the end of the century large numbers of Jews had arrived to become citizens.
b. The rise of anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. There were only a few Catholics and Jews in America from the earliest days of colonization. This dramatic influx of non-Protestants created fear and anxiety among some Protestants.
i. Intolerance and the “Know Nothings” at mid-century. An anti-Catholic andanti-foreign nativist movement emerged in the first half of the 19th century,culminating in the 1840s and 1850s in the Know-Nothing Party. The party endeavored to exclude Catholics from politics. Catholics were the victims of violence and discrimination in many parts of the nation.
ii. Intolerance at the turn of the century. A resurgence of similar sentiments inthe late 19th and early 20th centuries contributed to widespread anti-Semitism,opposition to immigration, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
H. The positive role of religion in helping shape public policy.
The ugly expressions of religious bigotry in the nativist movement represent some of the worst examples of religious involvement in politics and public policy. But religion has also been at the heart of some of the best movements in American social and political life.
- The contribution of African-American churches. The black churches have played a central role in the political and social history of African-Americans from the Colonial period to the present. Indeed, black churches have shaped the lives of all Americans by providing much of the moral and political leadership of the civil rights movement.
2. The contribution of Judaism and other minority religions. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, churches, synagogues and temples provided vital support for Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Buddhist immigrants as they adjusted to life in the United States. Religious communities were also at the forefront of many reform movements during the Progressive Era early in this century. Various religious groups, notably Unitarians, Quakers and Reform Jews, have been particularly visible in the peace movements and in the advocacy of social justice.
3. Constitutional separation and the role of religion in public life.In these and in many other ways, religious institutions and believers have significantly influenced public policy in the United States throughout the nation’s history.
a. Benefits of religious moral leadership. Again, disestablishment was not meant to separate religion from public life. Politics and government in America have clearly benefited from the moral leadership and values of many religious traditions and convictions.
b. Costs of religious zealotry. At the same time, the nation has suffered from violations of the spirit of religious liberty by religious groups who have at various times in our history used the public square to attack the religion of others or to deny others the full rights of citizenship.
III. Contemporary perspective
More people died because of their religious convictions in the 20th century than in any previous century. And there appears to be no end to the tragedy. Of the many wars waged throughout the world in the 1990s, more than two-thirds had religious or ethnic differences as a root cause. From Northern Ireland to Bosnia to Sri Lanka, religious differences contribute daily to death and destruction around the globe.
Even the explosion of freedom in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, by any measure a tremendous advance for democratic principles, has been accompanied by a serious outbreak of religious and ethnic bigotry and division. One of the most frightening developments has been the dramatic rise of anti-Semitism throughout the region. Tensions between Muslims and Christians have resulted in violence in Bosnia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and other places.
How has the United States, the most religiously diverse nation in the world, managed to avoid the “holy wars” so prevalent today and throughout history? This remarkable achievement may be traced directly to the religious-liberty clauses of the First Amendment. In spite of occasional setbacks and outbreaks of religious bigotry, the American experiment in religious liberty has held.
A. Religions remain active in American political life.
Religious liberty has allowed religions in the United States to grow and prosper as in few other places in the world. Not only are a large number of Americans deeply religious, but their religious communities continue to be actively involved in political life. This is evident, for example, in the civil rights and peace movements. Also, since the late 1970s, fundamentalist Christian communities together with other evangelical Christians have become a significant force in American politics, speaking out on a variety of social and moral issues.
B. Confusion about the role of religion in public life threatens religious liberty.
There are disturbing signs that the American experiment in liberty maybe in danger from two extremes.
1. Two extremes on the issue of religion and public life. On one end of the political spectrum there are those who seek to establish in law a “Christian America.” On the other end are some who seek to exclude religion from public life entirely. Both proposals violate the spirit of religious liberty.
2. Teaching religion vs. teaching about religion. The controversy surrounding the role of religion in public life has left many citizens confused about the principles of religious liberty. This confusion is made worse by the absence of teaching about religion and religious liberty in many public schools. Teaching about religion in the schools is often confused with the teaching of religion, or religious advocacy and indoctrination.
a. Change in some public schools. In the last few years, most states have mandated more teaching about religion in the schools in the social studies curriculum.
b. Efforts by U.S. Department of Education. In December 2000, the U.S.Department of Education sent a packet of religious-liberty guidelines to every public school principal in the nation. These guidelines focused on religious-liberty rights of students, the relationship between public schools and religious communities, and the role of religion in the curriculum. (See Cases & resources in this section.)
c. Change in textbook treatment of the role of religion. As a result,textbooks have begun to include more about the story of religious liberty and the role of religion in American history and society.
3. The new challenges of exploding pluralism. The confusion and ignorance surrounding the religious-liberty clauses of the Constitution leave Americans in a weak position to meet the challenges of exploding religious pluralism in the United States. The violent religious divisions throughout the world serve as a dramatic reminder of how vital it is for Americans to understand and affirm the principles of religious liberty in a nation of some 3,000 religious groups.
a. Pluralism as meaning society includes people of all faiths and none. Religious pluralism in the United States has expanded beyond the Protestant,Catholic and Jewish pluralism of the 1950s.
i. Expanding pluralism. Pluralism now includes a growing number of people from all the world’s religions, especially Islam and Buddhism. Pluralism must also take into account the nearly 12% of Americans who express no religious preference at all. Pluralist expansion will only continue.
ii. The burdens of exploding pluralism. The challenges of this diversity can be seen throughout American society. This pluralism is particularly evident in public schools. For example, dozens of different native languages are often found among the students of large urban schools. Similarly, many different religions are represented.
b. The First Amendment as providing ground rules for living together. As the United States begins its third century of constitutional government, important questions arise.
i. Living together without religious consensus. Two urgent questions are how Americans of so many faiths will continue to live together as citizens of one nation, and, since there is not (and cannot be) a religious consensus, what the civic values are that Americans of all faiths and none hold in common.
ii. Adherence to the principles of religious liberty. To answer these questions,American citizens must return to the basic democratic principles articulated inthe religious-liberty clauses of the First Amendment. Religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, is at the heart of what it means to be an American citizen. Only in these principles can Americans find the ground rules that allow all citizens to live together with deep religious differences.
4. The Williamsburg Charter.
One effort to return to basic principles is the Williamsburg Charter. Drafted by members of America’s leading faiths and revised over the course of two years in close consultation with political, academic, educational and religious leaders, the charter was signed in 1988 by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, two chief justices of the United States, and by nearly 200 leaders of national life. With their signatures, these individuals strongly reaffirmed the principles of religious liberty as essential for developing a common vision for the common good.
The Williamsburg Charter states in part:
“We affirm that a right for one is a right for another and a responsibility for all. A right for a Protestant is a right for an Eastern Orthodox is a right for a Catholic is a right for a Jew is a right for a Humanist is a right for a Mormon is a right for a Muslim is a right for a Buddhist — and for the followers of any other faith within the wide bounds of the republic. That rights are universal and responsibilities mutual is both the premise and the promise of democratic pluralism. The First Amendment in this sense, is the epitome of public justice and serves as the golden rule for civic life. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.”
The Emergence of the African American Church
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--forming new denominations. In 1787 Richard Allen (1760-1831) and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and in 1815 founded the African Methodist Episcopal (A. M. E.) Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed. By 1846, the A. M. E. Church, which began with 8 clergy and 5 churches, had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches, and 17,375 members.
Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
In the center is Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, surrounded by ten bishops of the church. At the upper left and right corners are pictures of Wilberforce University and Payne Institute other scenes in the life of the church are depicted, including the sending of missionaries to Haiti in 1824.
Bishops of the A.M.E. Church. Engraving by John H. W. Burley, Washington, D. C., 1876. Boston: J. H. Daniels, 1876. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (190)
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Woman Preacher of the A.M.E. Church
The black churches were graced by eloquent female preachers from their earliest days, although there was, as in the white churches, resistance in many quarters to the idea of women preaching the Gospel.
Mrs. Juliann Jane Tillman, Preacher of the A.M.E. Church. Engraving by P. S. Duval, after a painting by Alfred Hoffy, Philadelphia, 1844. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (191)
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In the letter below, a Mississippi Baptist church informs a Virginia Baptist church that it has been approached by a slave, Charity, who has been sold from Virginia to Mississippi, but nevertheless wishes to let her old fellow church members in Virginia know that she is praying for them and especially for "all her old Mistress family." Charity also wants it known that "her most pious affections and prayers" are that her old mistress, Mary S. Garret (Garnett), "become prepared to meet her in heaven."
Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Rankin City, Mississippi, to Upper King and Queen Baptist Church, Newtown, Virginia. [left page] - [right page] Manuscript letter, June 1837. Virginia Baptist Historical Society (192)
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Born a slave in Delaware, Absalom Jones (1746-1818), was a founding member of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, dedicated on July 17, 1794. A year later Jones was ordained as the first black Episcopal priest in the United States.
Absalom Jones. Oil on canvas on board by Raphaelle Peale, 1810. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington. Gift of the Absalom Jones School (193)
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Congressional Assistance to Absalom Jones
In this receipt, Absalom Jones acknowledges receiving from Samuel Wetherill, a leader of the Free Quakers of Philadelphia, a donation of $186, collected from members of the House and Senate, to assist in promoting the mission of Jones's "St. Thomases African Church in Philadelphia."
Receipt, signed by Absalom Jones, December 26, 1801. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (193a)
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Emotional exuberance was characteristic of evangelical religion in both the white and black communities in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Negro Methodists Holding a Meeting in a Philadelphia Alley. Watercolor by John Lewis Krimmel. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1942 (194)
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Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) was a spellbinding but eccentric traveling Methodist evangelist who could still a turbulent camp meeting with "the sound of his voice or at the sight of his fragile but awe-inspiring presence." Dow's audiences often exhibited unusual physical manifestations under the influence of his impassioned preaching.
Lorenzo Dow and the Jerking Exercise. Engraving by Lossing-Barrett, from Samuel G. Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime. Copyprint. New York: 1856. General Collections, Library of Congress (195)
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The Shakers, or the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, were founded by "Mother Ann Lee, a stalwart in the "Shaking Quakers" who migrated to America from England in 1774. American Shakers shared with the Quakers a devotion to simplicity in conduct and demeanor and to spiritual equality. They "acquired their nickname from their practice of whirling, trembling or shaking during religious services." The Shakers used dancing as a worship practice. They often danced in concentric circles and sometimes in the style shown here. Shaker emissaries from New York visited Kentucky in the early years of the nineteenth century to assess the revivals under way there and made a modest number of converts.
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Nineteenth Century Religious Leaders
Two of these pioneers, Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell, were Presbyterian ministers who, for different reasons, left the denomination and formed, in 1832, the Disciples of Christ. While an active Presbyterian minister, Stone organized the powerful Cane Ridge revival, near Lexington, Kentucky in the summer of 1801.
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1800-1860: Religion: Overview
Churches in the Expanding West. To Anglo-Americans in the nineteenth century the “ West ” was a migratory concept, continually being relocated as the next geographical region beyond white settlement. At the turn of the century the “ uninhabited ” frontier — though home to some 120,000 Native Americans — was the area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Waves of migration swept into the region from two primary directions: settlers from the Upper South and Middle Atlantic states streamed across the mountains into Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio, and impoverished New Englanders pushed into western New York and northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois territories. Migrants carried their religious background with them to their new homes, but settlement had to reach a certain density before pious inclinations could be expressed corporately. Although the rudiments of survival distracted from institution building, churches often took priority because they served multiple functions as vital centers for secular fellowship as well as for spiritual comfort. Communities, however dispersed, could use the churches as reference points for the assertion of behavioral norms. Denominational leaders were well aware of the potential for either good or ill in the areas of expanding settlement and reached out to the West with evangelizing programs. Without the civilizing presence of churches and the consolations of religion, the vulnerable communities might become hotbeds of immorality and lawlessness. A Christian West, however, promised not only a harvest of souls but also a pristine environment in which virtue and godliness might become a beacon to the jaded, older states. Whatever future awaited, one thing seemed certain as the nineteenth century opened: religious developments in the West were pivotal to the religious destiny of the nation overall.
Presbyterians. Religious freedom, enshrined as a revolutionary principle, meant that the denominations entered the West as equal competitors. Of the three major groups in the early republic — the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Baptists — the Presbyterian Church was the oldest and most established, and those attributes often made it attractive to people seeking stability in the midst of very uncertain conditions. The Scots-Irish, who formed a large bloc of the Presbyterian membership, had tended to migrate to the fringes of settlement in the eighteenth century. Strategically located in the Southern backcountry and the Ohio River valley after the American Revolution, they were among the first to move westward, and they carried their native faith with them to new communities. The structure of the church allowed local control through the elders, who handled the daily affairs of the congregation, while the regional presbyteries and synods ensured that the scattered flocks maintained order and orthodoxy. The Calvinist theology of Presbyterianism, spelled out in the Westminster Confession, declared that the salvation of the elect was achieved by grace alone, not by any effort on the part of the individual. Doctrinal conformity required the guidance of properly educated ministers and catechistic instruction, both of which were in short supply in the West. Given time, these disadvantages might have lessened, with accommodation in the interim to the practical realities of the sparse settlement, but the Presbyterian Church, still shaken by a schism in the eighteenth century, remained fearful that any compromise in polity or doctrine opened the floodgates to ungodliness.
Plan of Union. Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches dominated New England at the turn of the century, and one characteristic they shared was that they held ministerial aspirants to strict standards of education and experience. Consequently, both denominations suffered a dearth of ministers, and both were hamstrung in their ability to serve the communities quickly forming in western New York and the Ohio River valley. Under the Plan of Union in 1801, the two groups allowed the creation of joint churches, with the minister and polity to be chosen by the majority. This “ presbygational ” hybrid was an innovative strategy for evangelizing the West, yet it had long-range consequences for both churches. In institutional terms the Presbyterians ’ more aggressive structure tended to absorb the Congregational churches, but in doctrine the Congregational infusion served to weaken Presbyterianism ’ s Calvinist orthodoxy. Fears of corruption led conservative Presbyterians to question the benefits of all interdenominational programs and set the stage for a later division.
Methodists. Methodism had originated as a reform movement within the Church of England, but with American independence, the Methodist Episcopal Church had ventured out as a distinct denomination. By the early nineteenth century Methodism was enjoying explosive growth, especially in the West. Its key innovation — the circuit rider, or itinerant preacher — seemed admirably suited to the needs of far-flung settlements. The circuit rider would journey into the wilds, close on the heels of the pioneers. Evangelizing wherever there were people, he would gather converts into classes to meet, read the Bible, and keep one another out of sin ’ s reach until his return. Long circuits covering hundreds of miles gradually divided and contracted as more people moved into the area, increasing the number of local societies. To ensure connection with the larger Methodist fellowship, the circuit membership assembled quarterly for a “ refreshing ” time of communion and witness. In its organization the church was fundamentally hierarchical. Authority flowed downward from the bishops to the itinerant preachers, who met in annual conferences and laid out standards of belief and practice for the members. Yet in other respects the church displayed democratic elements. The Methodist preacher was an ordinary person who had been raised up from a class and had proven his dedication and abilities before a conference of fellow itinerants. Equality of opportunity was the rule for lay leadership as well. In theology Methodism repudiated the exclusivity of Calvinist election. Instead, salvation, offered by the grace of God, was open to all, and human beings could choose to accept or refuse the gift. Free will thus supplanted predestination. (This religious stance was popularly known as Arminian, in reference to the sixteenth-century theologian Jacobus Arminius.) By deciding to accept God ’ s invitation, the convert set out on a rigorous journey of “ sanctification, ” which could lead the faithful toward the ultimate Methodist goal of perfection — perfect in love and perfect in understanding. Methodism, then, seemed to respond to the two conflicting needs of religion in the West. Its celebration of free will and open opportunity meshed with the independent image of the pioneer, yet its structure and discipline provided cohesion and behavioral boundaries. The numbers substantiated Methodism ’ s appeal, and competing churches ruefully acknowledged the legendary speed with which Methodism advanced into every new territory. By 1820 Methodist membership had reached 250,000, and by 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church was the largest denomination in the nation.
Baptists. The spontaneous emergence of Baptist churches in newly settled areas distinguished the denomination from other groups. The farmer-preacher simply felt a calling that, if acknowledged by his peers, could lead to the gathering of a congregation. This liberated concept of the ministry was one of the Baptists ’ three defining principles — the other two being adult baptism by immersion and intense Congregationalism. The absence of organizational controls beyond the local church gave the Baptists flexibility as they planted new congregations, but they submitted to voluntary discipline and oversight through regional associations. The theological alignments of the Baptists paralleled their institutional focus on autonomy. Although Baptists in the Northern states often claimed a Calvinist heritage, confirmed by subscription to a shared confession, many Baptists in the Upper South had emerged from the revolutionary fires with less patience for binding creeds or Calvinist uniformity. Distinctly Arminian principles of free will and general redemption were among the traditions carried to the Trans-Appalachian West by Virginia and North Carolina Baptists.
Cane Ridge Camp Meeting. The nineteenth century awakened to scattered signs of revival in New England, but it was a camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801 that became the symbol and standard of religion in the early republic. Cane Ridge was the climax to a series of gradually expanding revivals, spearheaded by Presbyterian minister James McGready. During prolonged church services filled with impassioned sermons and prayers, McGready encouraged an emotional response from his listeners. His success among his churches in Logan County, Kentucky, enthused fellow minister Barton W. Stone in neighboring Bourbon County. Stone announced that a camp meeting would be held in early August. Rumors of a miraculous work astir had already generated a considerable amount of curiosity, and this meeting, publicized for more than a month, was set closer to the center of Kentucky ’ s population. When the day arrived, Elder David Purviance remembered that “ the roads were literally crowded with wagons, carriages, horsemen, and people on foot, all pressing to the appointed place. ” More than ten thousand people from all walks of life gathered at Cane Ridge, convincing participants that a divine hand was indeed guiding events. The revival continued for five emotion-charged days. Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers joined forces to evangelize the masses, and the air was filled with exhortation, hymn singing, and wailing. The spectacular experience was the stuff of legends. Stone carefully detailed in his memoirs the sights and sounds, especially the various “ exercises ” that struck the people as they wrestled with sin and then discovered their salvation: bodily jerks, dancing, singing, laughing, barking, and falling down. Col. Robert Paterson also described the scene: “ in the woods, ministers preaching day and night the camp illuminated with candles, on trees, at wagons, and at the tent persons falling down, and carried out of the crowd, by those next to them, and taken to some convenient place, where prayer is made for them some Psalm or Hymn, suitable to the occasion sung. ” Another contemporary wrote that “ there were present, besides 18 Presbyterian ministers, and a number of Baptist and Methodist preachers, the Governor of the State, each of whom was personally and busily engaged, either in preaching, praying, or exhorting! ”
Reaction to Cane Ridge. News of the Cane Ridge camp meeting spread to the East, becoming the butt of jokes to critics but evidence of a second Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit for others. Opponents explained the reports of the participants ’ behavior as evidence of nervous troubles, feeblemindedness among frontier people, or susceptibility to mass delusion. Sympathetic observers pointed to altered behavior as proof of the meeting ’ s benefits. The Washington Intelligencer published George Baxter ’ s favorable account in 1802:
On my way to Kentucky, I was informed by settlers on the road, that the character of Kentucky travellers was entirely changed and that they were now as remarkable for sobriety as they had formerly been for dissoluteness and immorality. And indeed I found Kentucky, to appearance, the most moral place I have ever seen … [The revival ’ s] influence was not less visible in promoting a friendly temper among the people … It has confounded infidelity, awed vice into silence, and brought numbers beyond calculation under serious impressions.
Coming as it did at the cusp of a new century, Cane Ridge offered seemingly indisputable evidence that God was sending a “ new dispensation ” to regulate human affairs. As a result it nourished the millennial hopes of the early nineteenth century, and its location in Kentucky seemed to indicate a special role for the West in bringing about Christ ’ s anticipated reign of peace and holiness. The Cane Ridge camp meeting inspired a chain reaction not only along the frontier of Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio but also among the Eastern churches, until the entire nation seemed on fire. The organized revival became the means to congregational growth, especially among Baptists and Methodists. The number of Baptists in Kentucky grew from 4,700 to 13,500 within a year of Cane Ridge, and from 1801 to 1806 the Methodist membership in Kentucky and Tennessee increased from 3,000 to 10,000. The Methodists in particular embraced the camp meeting and, in their usual methodical way, stylized it until it was a carefully structured event by the 1830s. As the decades passed, some came to view Cane Ridge as an uncontrolled explosion. Writing in his 1856 autobiography, Peter Cartwright had to acknowledge its power though he was not so complimentary of its aftershocks:
I suppose since the day of Pentecost, there was hardly ever a greater revival of religion than at Cane Ridge and if there had been steady, Christian ministers, settled in gospel doctrine and Church discipline, thousands might have been saved to the Church that wandered off in the mazes of vain, speculative divinity, and finally made shipwreck of the faith, fell back, turned infidel, and lost their religion and their souls forever. But evidently a new impetus was given to the work of God, and many, very many, will have cause to bless God forever for this revival of religion throughout the length and breadth of our Zion.
From both vantage points Cane Ridge remained a symbol of the age: looking forward in anticipation of the “ new dispensation ” and looking backward at the wreckage caused by human frailty.
Second Great Awakening. The wave of renewed interest in spiritual concerns crested in what historians refer to as the Second Great Awakening, forever changing American religion. In confronting colonial Calvinism an evangelical sensibility emerged that extolled free will in claiming redemption and human agency in effecting change. For the first three decades of the nineteenth century, its distinctive characteristics included a consuming zeal to reform the world and a millennial conviction that the United States was singularly poised to realize, as Alexander Campbell wrote, “ that ultimate amelioration of society proposed in the Christian Scriptures. ” The feverish burst of religiously motivated activity was the product of hope as well as fear. Harmony best characterized the godly society, yet from the beginning the nation had experienced discord, and the new century boded more instability and conflict. The generation coming of age in the early republic felt keenly the burden of the revolutionary legacy, and the uncertainty expressed in the common reference to “ the American experiment ” was no euphemism. The evangelical persuasion was thus simultaneously optimistic and apprehensive, fearing that unless every Christian shouldered the cross, the experiment would crash. Inspired and prodded by widespread humanitarian campaigns in Great Britain, an “ evangelical united front ” of voluntary associations sprang up to tackle such issues as temperance, prostitution, prison conditions, slavery, and women ’ s rights. Shared dedication to a cause took precedence over denominational differences, which again seemed to augur the idealistic possibilities for the nation ’ s future under Christian influence. The coalition behind this “ benevolent empire ” lasted until the late 1830s, when it was battered and overwhelmed by economic and political forces.
Missionary Impulse. The missionizing push by benevolent societies to the unchurched and unconverted in the Western settlements was a key development for religion in the West in the nineteenth century. Andover student Samuel Mills toured west of the Alleghenies from 1812 to 1814 and galvanized concerned Christians with his stories of distressed frontier communities lacking ministers, churches, or Bibles. In the territorial capital of Illinois, for example, Mills could not find a single complete copy of the Bible. These “ fact-finding ” expeditions were extremely influential in an age of limited communication, and they inspired local churches and regional organizations to engage in mission projects. The urgency of the problem seemed to demand wider cooperation, so national groups formed to address the problem of the Western settlements. Their objectives were two-fold: to prevent barbarism from overtaking the new and unchurched communities and to bring the Native Americans into the protecting fold of Christian civilization. Although achieving the second goal would facilitate the first, it was the particular concern with Indian “ uplift ” that initially drew missionaries into the field. The evangelical thrust to Native America was an important manifestation of religious aspirations for the West in the first half of the nineteenth century. It occurred in two stages. Interdenominational associations, such as the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), at first concentrated on the Indian groups nearest to white centers of population: in the areas of the Old Northwest, the Southeast, and just beyond the Mississippi. The second push began in 1831, after four Indians from the Columbia Plateau arrived in St. Louis seeking “ the white man ’ s book of heaven. ” Methodists, Presbyterians, and Jesuits turned their attention to the distant lands beyond the Continental Divide until 1847, when the massacre of eleven people at an Oregon mission brought a dramatic halt to missionary projects in the region. The confrontation between the belief systems of indigenous peoples and Euro-Americans was a clash of sacred worlds: an encounter not initially of conquest and domination but of interaction and eventual alienation. Indians responded variously to religious representatives: utilitarian curiosity over a potential new source of power, theological critique, adaptation, conversion, and/or nativist countermovement. The most universal consequence of the missionary impulse for native peoples was factionalism within communities, as Indians individually and corporately struggled to comprehend within a religious framework the changes provoked by westward-expanding settlements.
Cumberland Schism. After the Cane Ridge camp meeting, denominational leaders had rejoiced that revivals in the West had encouraged the spread of churches, but they soon discovered that such an intense release of religious energy was hard to contain. The Presbyterians, the first to enjoy the harvest of the camp meeting, were also the first to suffer schism. Exhilarated by the revivals, the Kentucky Presbyterians sought to keep the momentum going, but that required ministerial leadership. To supply their own needs in the face of a denominationwide shortage, the revivalists took a practical approach and borrowed a leaf from the Methodist manual: they sent unordained licentiates to the scattered settlements to preach the gospel. Nor were they as strict about how closely new converts adhered to the Westminster Confession. These tactics reopened old wounds within the denomination. Facing opposition from more-traditional Presbyterians, the revivalists affiliated as the Cumberland Presbytery, but the Synod of Kentucky refused recognition. Upon appeal to the General Assembly, the highest governing body, the synod declared that its objective “ was to suppress the growing irregularities in the west, and yet save one of her Presbyteries from disruption and final ruin. ” The assembly reprimanded the dissidents, so they declared their independence from the synod in 1810 and finally severed ties in 1816. The emergence of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was a direct response to the circumstances and needs of the frontier in the wake of Cane Ridge. The church adopted revival methods and a version of the Westminster Confession that was more amenable to free will. Its ministers were also subject to less-rigid educational demands. The Cumberland church grew rapidly in the Trans-Appalachian states, from Mississippi to Indiana, where its membership numbered approximately seventy-five thousand by 1850.
Unity and the Christian Movement. The pride of the Cane Ridge camp meeting had been the unusual spirit of cooperation displayed among the ministers, who set aside their denominational differences for the higher goal of bringing salvation to the wayward. Many believers regarded such disinterested behavior as a sign that unity within Christendom — an essential if elusive prerequisite for the ultimate triumph of the universal Church — was at last within reach. The call to unity was a strong current in the religious aspirations of the early republic, but as seen in the Cumberland division, the desire for harmony among churches confronted the reality of competing claims to religious truth. The “ Christian ” movement was the most radical response to sectarian rivalry and was especially prominent in the religious landscape of the Trans-Appalachian West. Ironically, its institutional form emerged as the result of two rifts. In 1803 Barton Stone and other revivalists separated from the Presbyterians, called themselves simply “ Christians, ” and declared their allegiance to the New Testament as their sole guide. Spreading from Kentucky to Ohio to other states bordering the Mississippi, the number of Stone ’ s followers grew to more than twelve thousand by the late 1820s. Meanwhile, in 1809 Thomas Campbell withdrew from his Seceder Presbyterian Church in Western Pennsylvania and formed a nondenominational “ Christian Association. ” His son Alexander gave the movement a clearer theological identity, and in 1827 the churches formed by their followers adopted the name “ Disciples of Christ. ” Five years later the Stone and Campbell churches were loosely affiliated, though congregations continued to call themselves Christians or Disciples of Christ, according to preference. By 1860 membership in the combined churches totaled two hundred thousand and was concentrated west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Mormonism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as the Mormons, originated in Western New York in April 1830 under the leadership of Joseph Smith. Hailed by his followers as God ’ s new prophet, Smith provided the Latter-Day Saints with an indigenous scripture: the Book of Mormon, which he allegedly had translated from ancient plates hidden in a hill near Palmyra, New York. Pushed relentlessly from place to place by opponents, the church attracted increasing numbers of adherents, apparently answering the longings of many for reassurance and purpose in troubled times. In 1840 Mormons began to construct an impressive “ New Jerusalem ” in Illinois, but success did not bring acceptance from nonbelievers. On 27 June 1844 a mob descended on the Carthage jail where Joseph Smith was awaiting trial on charges of inciting a riot. He and his brother Hiram were murdered. Brigham Young assumed the leadership of the official church, and from 1846 to 1848 he guided some twelve thousand Latter-Day Saints across Iowa and then a thousand miles to the Salt Lake valley. Isolated, the Mormons prospered and expanded, at the same time outraging the East by the practice of polygamy and by claiming a vast “ empire ” under their control. In an attempt to secure their position, the Mormons created a state they called “ Deseret. ” The federal government instead designated the area a territory in the Compromise of 1850. The conditions were ripe for conflict. In 1857 President James Buchanan decided to dispatch federal troops to the region to assert federal authority over the rebellious Mormons. Enthusiasm for the half-hearted Utah expedition quickly waned, and the so-called Mormon War had the unintended consequence of confirming the practical autonomy of the Mormon monolith. A towering presence in the religious history of the West, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints challenged the nineteenth-century Protestant establishment with a faith that both reflected and refracted the culture in which it flourished.
New Harmony. In the early nineteenth century the United States became home to a number of communitarian experiments, Utopian as well as millenarian. The most famous communities — such as Brook Farm and Oneida — were located in the East or had a minor role in the religion of the Trans-Appalachian West. An exception was New Harmony, a religious community in Indiana Territory founded by German pietist George Rapp. Fleeing persecution for refusing to worship in the state church, Rapp and three hundred of his followers had arrived in the United States in 1803 and started a community in Western Pennsylvania. In search of better agricultural land, the group decided in 1814 to move to a tract on the Wabash River in Indiana Territory. The Rappite community, now numbering about seven hundred, quickly became the largest and most impressive town in the territory. New Harmony was a model of agricultural and manufacturing productivity, with woolen and saw mills and flourishing vineyards and orchards. The community owned twenty thousand acres of land and 180 brick, frame, and log buildings — churches, shops, granaries, mills, factories, barns, stables, and houses. Visitors from the East and from Europe came to New Harmony and extolled its neat appearance and the industry of its people reformers looked to it as an economic model. Yet the primary purpose of New Harmony was to accumulate wealth for Christ ’ s use when He returned, and Rapp considered his congregation to be the bride of Christ, as described in Revelation. Since the Second Coming was thought to be quickly approaching, the Harmonists remained celibate, held all property in common, and submitted to the paternal guidance of their founder, who served as religious leader and confessor. Despite the visible accomplishments of New Harmony, within a decade the leaders decided to return to Pennsylvania, disheartened at the toll taken by malaria and missing the advantages of residing in a state amenable to people of German ancestry. In 1825 they sold all holdings to Robert Owen, who transformed New Harmony into a socialist experiment. The Rappites ’ third settlement in Economy, Pennsylvania, became renowned for its woolen manufacture, but after the death of Father Rapp in 1847 the spiritual character of the communitarian project faded. Linkages to the outside world increased interest in secular affairs, dampening chiliasm, or millenarianism, and the drive for sinless perfection. In that respect, the evolution of New Harmony was somewhat analogous to the drift of antebellum religion overall.
Searching for Order. During the 1830s the centrifuge of religious ferment slowed, and the impetus shifted away from the disorder of creative experimentation in matters of faith toward a desire for respectability. In the East a new wave of revivals addressed urban anxieties in particular: the doubts and fears accompanying rapid economic growth, changing work patterns, widening gaps within society based on wealth, and incredible immigration. The area around Rochester, New York, was so inflamed by revivals that it became known as the “ burnedover district. ” Once again, revived Easterners turned their eyes to the West in missionary zeal, but with altered perception. Observing the settled areas beyond the Appalachians, it now seemed apparent that simply building churches would not “ civilize ” the behavior and manners of the Western communities. Cultivation of the character through formal education had to go hand in hand with care of the soul. (In fact, this shift in attitude echoed the debate over “ Christianization or civilization ” of the Native Americans.) In response the nondenominational American Sunday School Union vastly expanded the work it had begun in 1824 and for the rest of the century provided rudimentary education for many children in both the East and the West. The religious influence of the Union was formidable since its teachers were essentially missionaries and its instructional materials were mostly Bible stories. Especially in Western areas newly opened to white settlement, Sunday school missionaries often arrived before churches had been organized, and they provided a bridge to civilization with religious instruction that instilled such moral virtues as punctuality, cleanliness, and industry. The domestic mission drive was spearheaded primarily by the American Home Missionary Society (AMHS), founded in 1826. Representing Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the AMHS supplied much of the personnel for the West: college-age men from New England and the Middle Atlantic who shrank from the challenge of the slave South and so directed their ardor westward. Asa Turner was one of seven Yale theological students to form the “ Illinois Band, ” pledging himself to missionary and educational work in 1829. Ten years later, as the first AMHS minister in Iowa, he wrote to the society asking for more helpers. In 1843 Turner received a reply from a group of students at Andover Seminary. This Iowa Band offered to come to the territory and help establish churches. The seasoned Turner doubted that their youthful idealism could withstand the rigors of pioneer life, but in fact ten of the Andover group did found Congregational churches in Iowa. They complemented their long ministerial service with the establishment of Iowa College in 1848. Through the AMHS, New England religious and cultural influences reached beyond the Mississippi to Western settlements.
Sectional Prejudice. Since Easterners tended to regard Westerners as perfectly content in their barbarism, missionaries were often contemptuous of those whom they served. Missionary John Parsons, stationed in southern Indiana in 1833, railed at the “ universal dearth of intellect ” and the lack of interest in self-improvement. “ Need I stop to remind you of the host of loathsome reptiles such a stagnant pool is fitted to breed! Croaking jealousy blotted bigottry coiling suspicion wormish blindness crocodile malice! ” Other prejudices came to the fore in the less conciliatory mood of the 1830s. The AMHS persisted in calling areas “ destitute of both religious and moral principles ” even when Baptists or Methodists were firmly entrenched there. A Presbyterian missionary reported to the society that “ Campbellism is the great curse of the West — more destructive and more injurious to the cause of religion than avowed Infidelity itself. ” Church adherence may best illustrate the reaction of the West to being civilized by the East. Although the Presbyterians led in the educational invasion of the Old Northwest states, they could claim less than 250,000 members in 1840. Meanwhile, the Methodists had 850,000 and Baptists more than 570,000. The Eastern denominations may have supplied the educators, but Western people signed up with other communions. As expressed in the familiar slogan “ no creed but the Bible, ” Protestants in the Trans-Appalachian West required basic literacy skills in order to decide religious matters for themselves, but they disdained intellectual pretense. The popularity of religious journals spoke to their commitments despite the scorn of New Englanders. For example, during 1831 – 1832 the post office in Jacksonville, Illinois, received 133 periodicals, 42 of which were religious journals.
Charles Grandison Finney. Charles Grandison Finney, one of the most important religious figures to emerge from the antebellum era, made Oberlin College in Ohio his professional home beginning in 1835. A schoolteacher then a lawyer in New York, Finney abandoned both and turned to evangelism in the 1820s. He came under the influence of New Haven theology, developed in the late 1820s at Yale Divinity School by Congregational minister Nathaniel Taylor. Taylor furnished an intellectual foundation for revivalism by softening Calvinist orthodoxy in order to place more emphasis on free will and thus human instrumentality. By the early 1830s Finney ’ s fame and powerful preaching had swept urban centers in the East. Oberlin then became the focus for his “ new measures ” in revivalism, which included carefully planned methods to win converts and a postconversion commitment to Christian reform. Finney ’ s conviction that people chose the way of Christ and the way of holy living — that “ perfection ” meant the potential for unlimited moral improvement — had both sacred and secular implications. Consequently, though Finney ’ s theology emerged from an urban landscape that was alien to the West, his prescriptions harmonized with a Western milieu. His was a familiar language of activism (especially regarding temperance reform), of pragmatism, and of millennialism. As Finney declared, “ If the church will do her duty, the millennium may come in this country in three years. ” However, Finney ’ s new measures were also a telling sign of the religious change since Cane Ridge. Then the revivalists had seen the hand of Providence at work, heralding a divine dispensation. In Finney ’ s view revivals were not miraculous but only the purely calculated result “ of the right use of the constituted means. ” The advent of a new age certainly required God ’ s blessing, but it would come about as the intentional product of human endeavor.
Lyman Beecher. In 1832 Lyman Beecher, famed New England Presbyterian minister, became head of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati — a physical separation from his roots that was paralleled in theological distance. Although he was more conservative than Finney, Beecher also favored New Haven theological modifications. In fact, in Ohio a trustee of the seminary made a formal complaint to the synod about Beecher ’ s doctrinal deviation, and though he was acquitted of heresy, the event drew the church one step closer to schism. Beecher ’ s denomination was not the one sweeping the West, yet he emerged as the spokesman for the West ’ s role in the nation ’ s destiny, and, given his own profession, he visualized both the role and the destiny in religious terms. Beecher published Plea for the West in 1835, and the work was widely reprinted and cited. To Beecher, the driving question of the age was whether republican institutions could be reconciled with universal suffrage. The danger, he declared, was that “ our intelligence and virtue will falter and fall back into a dark minded, vicious populace — a poor, uneducated reckless mass of infuriated animalism. ” The remedy was Bibles, schools, and seminaries — strong institutions infused with religious purpose that would apply “ needed intellectual and moral power. ” Not only the nation was at risk but also the entire world. “ If this work be done, and well done, our country is safe, and the world ’ s hope is secure … nation after nation, cheered by our example, will follow in our footsteps, till the whole earth is free. ” The West had become the testing ground for the entire America!) experiment. In hindsight, the irony of Beecher ’ s dramatic appeal was his perception that mobocracy posed the major threat to the republic. Meanwhile, in 1834 an alarming number of Lane Seminary students, including future abolitionist-firebrand Theodore Weld, decided to attend Oberlin because there they would be able to take a stronger stance against slavery.
The Denominations Divide. At the turn of the century the strength of revival currents had fostered interdenominational cooperation. Churches were means to the greater end of realizing God ’ s special plan for the nation. During the late 1830s and 1840s the religious mood began to change, and denominational lines hardened under the discipline of orthodoxy. Controversies, especially slavery, became the points on which faith turned. The Methodist church, for example, split into Northern and Southern branches in 1844, over the issue of excluding slaveholders from the ranks of preachers. Western Methodists thus had to take sides as they formed their own societies. For the Presbyterians and Baptists, policies directly related to the West triggered division. Over the years conservative Presbyterians, known as the Old School, had protested the liberal policies of the New School majority, but to no avail. The key grievances of the Old School were, first, that the New School had been lax in enforcing doctrinal conformity and, second, that the support of interdenominational societies had weakened the Presbyterian mission. Finally, New School boldness pushed conservatives and moderates together, and the General Assembly of 1837 took decisive action. The delegates voided the Plan of Union of 1801, which nullified the four Western synods organized during the life of the Union. The assembly removed more than 500 churches and between 60,000 and 100,000 members from the Presbyterian rolls in one swoop. The Old School majority created the Board of Foreign Missions (BFM) with explicit instructions to pursue a strict Presbyterian line and informed other mission groups to stay clear of BFM stations. The struggle between new and old schools continued as tensions heightened over slavery, and the denomination split in 1838. Missions were also the bane of Baptist unity, but while the Presbyterians had been primarily concerned about heterodoxy, the Baptists chafed at external efforts to contravene the will of congregations. Combined with different opinions over slavery, the result was explosive. At first Baptist evangelization of the West had occurred under the auspices of regional associations, but in 1814 representatives of Baptist churches met to develop a more comprehensive mission thrust. Over the next twenty years the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Missions, known as the Triennial Convention, sent out more than one hundred missionaries, across the continent and abroad. This extracongregational body did not have the support of many Baptists, who declared their resistance by calling themselves Primitive, Hard-shell, or Anti-mission. Particularly in the Trans-Appalachian West, Baptists remained committed to local control. The issue that brought matters to a head was the evangelization of the slaveholding Cherokees in the Indian Territory. In 1844 antislavery Baptists withdrew from the Triennial Convention to form their own missionary group. In answer to a direct query from the Alabama Baptists, the convention ’ s executive committee replied that it would never certify a slave owner as a missionary. In 1845 the Baptists split into Northern and Southern branches, and the Southern Baptist Convention remains a separate body today.
Roman Catholicism. By the 1830s many Protestant leaders regarded Roman Catholicism as a clear threat to the American republic. The Catholic Church had quickly added an institutional branch to its hierarchy to cover the new nation, but the number of communicants was modest until the 1830s. That decade marked the beginning of large-scale Irish Catholic immigration. The potato blight of the early 1840s turned the Irish departure from their homeland into panicked flight. By 1850 the census recorded 961,000 Irish in the United States, with 200,000 immigrating in that year alone. Meanwhile the arrival of nearly 1.5 million Germans in the 1840s and 1850s also boosted the number of Catholics in the United States. The results were staggering. From 1830 to 1860 the nation ’ s population grew from 13 million to 31.5 million (two and one half times). The Catholic population burgeoned from 300,000 to over 3 million. Consequently, by the middle of the century there were more Catholics in the United States than any other denomination — though they remained a minority in a nation dominated by varieties of Protestantism. Moreover, a severe shortage of priests kept the church at a competitive disadvantage. At the Catholic Church ’ s first American plenary council in 1852, the record revealed 1.6 million Catholics but only 1,800 priests to serve its 1,600 churches and mission stations. Before the Civil War the Catholic population beyond the Mississippi was relatively modest and was concentrated in the Southwestern region. Given its minimal presence, the primary role played by Catholicism in the West was in the fertile imagination of Protestant leaders. Lyman Beecher ’ s Plea for the West, in fact, appended a long expose of the great Catholic conspiracy to conquer the Western region. Despite his hysteria, anti-Catholicism and nativism did not seem to be a significant factor in the religious life of the West as it was in other regions, though the efficient advance of the Jesuits in Western missions did put the Protestant missionaries on the defensive. In any event, neither the Jesuits nor the Catholic Church lived up to their nefarious image as an “ evil empire. ”
Catholicism in the Southwest. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, the United States purchased California and New Mexico as the spoils of the Mexican War. These acquisitions, combined with Texas state hood in 1845, presented the Catholic Church with a Southwestern population of nominal Catholics, possibly 25,000 in New Mexico and 10,000 in Texas, as well as the remnants of the Franciscan mission system in California. Since the mid eighteenth century the attentions of Iberian Catholicism had wandered away from New Spain. Over the years, then, Hispanic settlers had developed a unique folk Catholicism, which was characterized by an abundance of local patron saints and religious holidays, an emphasis on the Virgin Mary, and lay religious brotherhoods. In New Mexico, for example, Los Hermanos de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, or the Penitentes, assumed much of the burden for worship and parish ministrations, though Catholic authorities looked askance at their use of physical penance and their autonomy. Under the umbrella of United States possession, the Catholic hierarchy embraced the region but could do little more than assert administrative control, given the dearth of priests. Jean Marie Odin was named bishop of Galveston in 1847, and six years later Jean-Baptiste Lamy became bishop of Santa Fe. Odin ’ s multinational constituency included Hispanics as well as Germans and Silesian Poles. Such diverse ethnicities, and the linguistic hurdles they posed, placed an even greater strain on American Catholicism in this period. Technically the Catholic Church did not have exclusive control over the Southwest, but Protestants found that determined opposition from the bishop was enough to empty their schools and bring their evangelism to a screeching halt. In New Mexico, Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian representatives charged into the territory soon after its acquisition, and one by one they abandoned their efforts to convert the Hispanic-Catholic population, not to return until after the Civil War.
California. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 prompted a vast migration that affected the state ’ s religious environment: the population rose from 14,000 in 1848 to 200,000 four years later to 380,000 in 1860. The sudden emergence of a makeshift society exclusively devoted to the accumulation of wealth captured the attention of the nation. One common image of gold-rush California depicted it as a breeding ground of a creeping corruption that could infect the rest of the country. By the 1850s the Protestant establishment became absorbed with California as the bellwether for the evangelical impulse that preoccupation now displaced the earlier enthusiasm for the conversion of the Native Americans. In the words of historian Kevin Starr, the state ’ s religious significance came down to a struggle between “ California as Babylon, as hopelessly flawed, and California as Eden of the West, as continual recipient of special grace. ” Entangled within the debate was California ’ s position as the jumping-off point for the Orient and thus as a vital hub for the westward march of American Protestantism — perhaps even giving it new life, since large areas and many people of the West had proven impervious to its summons. Although contemporary accounts bemoaned California ’ s unchurched wasteland, there were a few stalwart clergymen accompanying the Forty-Niners, and they industriously established at least fifty small churches within a short time. In the early years of the gold rush, the letters and reports of the overworked ministers tell of the endless round of duties — marriages, funerals, care of sick and dying — interspersed with street-corner and saloon evangelism. Methodist minister William Taylor exhorted daily on San Francisco ’ s wharf, to ensure that the first words heard by arrivals would be the gospel.
The Lessons of California. The state ’ s dramatic religious diversity discomfited evangelical Protestants, for their faith represented merely one option among many. The multiplicity of ethnic groups in California stretched the idea of religious competition to unheard-of lengths. Besides the major denominations there were Unitarians, Mormons, Jews, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Russian Orthodox, and, from the 45,000 Chinese laborers who arrived in California between 1849 and 1854, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Blacks had also responded to California ’ s siren call, as fortune seekers and as slaves accompanying masters. Their churches quickly emerged as focal points for the black community, paralleling the importance and multiple functions of the black church in other regions. In 1853 Catholicism officially extended from shore to shore with the organization of the archdiocese of San Francisco. Yet many Hispanics found themselves marginalized as the church tried to respond to a wide range of immigrants. In southern California, Hispano-Catholicism did not surrender so easily, though communicants had to battle the disciplinary bent of their bishop, who tried to weed out folk practices and “ corrupt Catholicism. ” In the view of recent historians, adopting a Pacific Coast vantage point in American religious history can suggest an alternative to the usual model of a Westward march of religious institutions and beliefs from the Atlantic seaboard. California ’ s extreme pluralism was therefore an integral part of antebellum religion rather than an aberration. Moreover, after a decade of labors amid the bewildering religious variety in California, evangelical missionaries were forced to admit that the tried-and-true strategies of revivalism had failed to work. Church attendance and membership remained discouraging, and the situation seemed to call into question the efficacy of revivalism itself. By challenging the universality of the evangelical appeal, the California experience set the stage for theological shifts later in the century.
Western Judaism. The corporate life of American Jews in the West took shape with the gold-rush immigrations in the 1850s. Before the Civil War, Jews were a recognizable presence in Portland, Denver, and other Western towns, but it was California that became home to the largest Jewish communities. In 1860 the census recorded about 5,000 Jews in San Francisco, 500 in Sacramento, and 150 in Los Angeles. The commercial needs of booming areas opened the door to Jewish bankers and merchants, and they often became a stable center amid rapid change. Pioneer Jews served as community founders and organizers alongside gentiles, and they frequently held public office, though not significantly represented in the electorate. Anti-Semitism thus was less apparent in the West than in other regions, perhaps because, as the historian Moses Rischin has suggested, the lack of structure made all outsiders potential insiders. Indeed, in contrast to other religious outsiders in California, including the Chinese Buddhists and the Mormon polygamists, Jewish religious differences seemed tame, placing them from the start on a better footing in relation to the Protestant majority.
The Iowa Example. At midcentury the “ West, ” defined for these purposes in terms of Euro-American population density, barely extended beyond the Mississippi. Each type of Western society — the boom towns of the Gold Rush, the gradually expanding territorial settlements, the maturing communities in older regions — had its own religious character. Even so, by the close of the antebellum age, pluralism had emerged as a distinguishing trait of religion in the Trans-Appalachian West. While California may have represented one extreme on the spectrum, Iowa, which became a state in 1846 and shared with California the attentions of evangelists, serves as an example of the quintessential Middle West. According to the 1860 census there were 90,000 Methodists, twice as many as any other group. The Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and Catholics each claimed 20,000 members or more. Diversity sprang from the soil of religious freedom: the state was home to Dutch Reformed, Quakers, Swedenborgians, and Mennonites. The Community of True Inspiration, a movement originating in Germany, moved westward from New York in 1855 and established the Amana Colonies in east-central Iowa, practicing a form of communal theocracy. Despite the proliferation of options, the census recorded the “ unchurched ” population (meaning those who did not indicate a denominational preference) at about 60 percent. Even so, it is likely that membership numbers did not tell the complete story of either churchgoing or patterns of belief. Iowa boasted a church for every 711 residents by comparison, the national high was Ohio, with one for every 449 people, while California bottomed out with one church for every 1,103 people (Euro-Americans). Iowans, in common with residents of other states, would have considered themselves “ religious ” as long as they could individually define what that meant.
Conclusion. In denominational terms, the significant events of the period from 1800 to 1860 in the religion of the West were the ascendancy of the Methodists and Baptists and the emergence of the Christians and Disciples of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In terms of religious expression, the common language was evangelical Protestantism, operating within a voluntarist and pluralist framework. Yet the diversity of dialects within evangelicalism in the West exposed contradictory currents within antebellum society as a whole: interdenominationalism and schism, individualism and communitarianism, postmillennial optimism and premillennial pessimism. Overall, what dominated in the Protestant West was the “ democratization ” of American Christianity. According to the historian Nathan Hatch, the religious terrain was populist, not because church polity or doctrine were intrinsically democratic but because religion responded to the spiritual needs and life circumstances of ordinary people. They claimed the privilege of interpreting Scripture and organizing churches for themselves. The result was not necessarily libertarian, since sometimes thinking for oneself meant choosing to submit to authority. The right to define one ’ s own faith was empowering, if not liberating. The Western religious experience during the first decades of the nineteenth century was thus an addendum to the revolutionary story, as Euro-Americans tested certain radical implications of freedom in matters of faith — such as the extent of tolerance in a regimen of religious liberty and the proper means to a harmonious society. Gradually, a Romantic worldview began to transform perception and change what people asked of their faith. In the words of the historian William McLoughlin, rather than adopting an inclusive religious vision, “ Americans discovered who they were by deciding who they were not. ” That sense of the religious “ other ” emerged in divisions among denominations, between Protestants and Catholics, and along racial lines, as Euro-Americans gradually displaced Native Americans from the physical and sacral landscape of the West. By the Civil War, religion in the Trans-Appalachian West had assumed many features of its Eastern fountainhead and was affected by the same trends, but it was never a replica. The relationship in matters of faith remained symbiotic, for there was a persistent sense that the West, in its ever-shifting definition, represented the potential redemption of the East and of the nation.
How Religion, Spirituality, and Faith Help
Ultimately, as there is so much diversity in the Asian American population in so many ways, so too this applies to our religions and practices of spirituality and faith. But they all share the commonality of helping Asian Americans adjust to life in the U.S. and all the issues that surround what it means to be an Asian American.
As several social scientists point out, these various forms of spirituality and faith help Asian Americans to deal with the upheavals of immigration, adapting to a new country, and other difficult personal and social transformations by providing a safe and comfortable environment in which immigrants can socialize, share information, and assist each other. In this process, religious traditions can help in the process of forming Asian immigrant communities by giving specific Asian ethnic groups another source of solidarity, in addition to their common ethnicity, on which to build relationships and cooperation. In fact, history shows that numerous churches and religious organizations played very important roles in helping immigrants from China, Japan, the Philippines, South Asia, and Korea adjust to life in the U.S.
Also, the secular functions of religion are just as, if not even more important in helping Asian Americans in their everyday lives. Specifically, many churches, temples, and other religious organizations provide their members with important and useful services around practical, everyday matters such as translation assistance. Other practical examples include information and assistance on issues relating to education, employment, housing, health care, business and financial advice, legal advice, marriage counseling, and dealing with their Americanized children, etc. As such, many churches are almost like social service agencies in terms of the ways in which they help Asian Americans in practical, day-to-day matters.
Other scholars and studies show that churches can also provide social status and prestige for their members. As one example sociologist Pyong Gap Min describes that since many Korean immigrants face underemployment due to their lack of English fluency once they immigrate to the U.S. (especially if they come from educated and professional backgrounds in Korea), they often feel ashamed, embarrassed, or alienated as they adjust to their lower status level in the U.S. Within their church however, many Korean immigrants find a sense of status through official positions inside the church. These can include being assistant ministers, education directors, unordained associate pastors, elders, deacons, and committee chairs, etc.
Finally, as Bankston and Zhou point out in their study of the New Orleans Vietnamese community, religion can play a significant part in affecting a young Asian American's ethnic identity. The Catholic churches in the Vietnamese section of the city helped to keep young Vietnamese Americans integrated within the larger community. Those youngsters who attended church and participated in religious activities more were more likely to do well in school and to stay out of trouble.
Religion In Nineteenth-Century America
Beginning in the late 1790s on the western frontier, a new religious style was born. Itinerant preachers traversed the backcountry in search of converts by holding enthusiastic camp meetings. What came to be called the Second Great Awakening began as circuit riders, especially Methodists, stirred up emotional outpourings of Christian fervor. Among isolated migrants to places like Kentucky, the chance to socialize and release pent-up emotions at camp meetings had considerable appeal. Backcountry men and women also gained the spiritual comfort of hearing ministers assert that human beings had moral free agency, the innate ability to choose between good and evil. The doctrine represented a sharp departure from the gloomy tenets of Calvinism, the theological position that a person’s fate was already predetermined by a wrathful God. This emphasis on human will and a more loving God would have a great impact on the course of American history in the nineteenth century.
By the 1820s and 1830s, the revivals and their message of optimism and perfectionism stretched eastward. Converts to the new religious ways ardently strove to eliminate sin from themselves and from their society. The result was a faith that promoted social reforms of various kinds, among them abolitionism, temperance, health reform, and the asylum movement. Religious fervor had political implications that would overturn an inherited order based on hierarchy and coercion. Only free individuals, they believed, could freely choose God.
Emotional conversion by individuals was at the core of the evangelical Protestantism that dominated during the Second Great Awakening. As with the earlier Puritans, the experience of conversion was the shaping event in a person’s life. What separated the mainstream evangelical denominations of the 1800s from the Puritans, however, was a belief in the efficacy of human action in achieving both conversion and salvation. This combination of individual will and intense emotion marked the religion of the Second Great Awakening, and it also marked much of mainstream American culture by the middle of the nineteenth century.
Although conversion was an intensely personal experience, the revival was an intensely social event. Among the most famous revivals were those led by Charles Grandison Finney in Rochester, New York, during the winter of 1830-1831. Rochester, a boom town reeling from the market forces unleashed by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, was obsessed with religion for the six months Finney’s revival lasted. (Western New York was so frequently swept by the fires of evangelical fervor that it became known as the “burnt-over district.”)
Finney’s “new measures” were actually improvisations introduced by the backcountry preachers three decades earlier. Finney, an itinerant Presbyterian, “democratized” Christianity by preaching in an entertaining and approachable manner, avoiding the extended Biblical exegesis common among Puritan ministers. His revival was social theater, and, of course, audience participation was indispensable. Prominent members of the community were seated upon the “anxious bench” directly before the platform, and Finney spoke directly to them in a way designed to appeal to them personally. He held protracted meetings, gathering night after night to augment the communal excitement of the revival. Women, as at the backcountry meetings, played a prominent role as emotional participants. In building up excitement for Finney’s gatherings, women were especially important by encouraging other family members to attend.
Finney and other preachers of the Second Great Awakening rejected much of Calvinist theology. Instead, with his calls of “Do it!,” Finney asserted that individuals had the power to change their lives to assure their own salvation. When the emotional upheaval inherent in the revival simmered down, people were left with a sense of self-control. The message of the revivals ended up creating very effective behaviors in the new world of the Market Revolution, a world in which competitive capitalism gave life new opportunities as well as new insecurities. Sobriety, a work ethic, thrift, and delayed gratification, all defined as virtue, proved quite good rules for success for the men of the emerging middle class. Women who experienced revivals became agents for the moralization of their families and friends, empowered with a new found sense of moral authority.
Many of Finney’s listeners also became ardent supporters of various social reforms. Social ills, redefined as sin, stood in the way of the second coming of Christ. Society’s problems, in this cosmically optimistic ethos, should, could, and would be solved. The dynamism of American life in the nineteenth century was not just the result of economic and demographic forces. It also had religious roots.
Thus, the impact of the Second Great Awakening was substantial. The new religious style and practices were spread by an innovative religious publishing industry. Religion inculcated a belief in progress, in the abilities of social reforms to perfect society, in a special role for American women as the arbiters of morality, and in the rules of conduct that appealed to the Northern middle class, a class that increasingly set the tone for American life. Without the introduction and spread of what backcountry preachers tried in the 1790s, America would have been a profoundly different place.
Abzug, Robert H., Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Blumin, Stuart M., The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760-1900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989).
Hatch, Nathan O., The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991).
Johnson, Paul E., A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1979).
What role did religion play in creating the colonies in the New World?
January 27, 2014 Comments Off on What role did religion play in creating the colonies in the New World?
What role did religion play in creating the colonies in the New World?
Historically, religion has continued to characterize the human society by influencing its growth and structure by facilitating change. The notion of religious freedom has significantly influenced the American history. It is the essence by which the Europeans discovered America and their religious practices which predisposed how they interacted with the natives, the foreign land and their achievement of having America as their colony. European immigrants moved to the United States to flee religious subjugation that were imposed controversial to their beliefs. Such stances were strongly advocated especially by the Roman Catholic Church which was state associated and failure to be submissive led to persecutions. The Europeans needed freedom to choose the religion they personally wanted. Religious oppression in the American colonists was evident. In Europe, the Roman Catholic was so extreme that people felt a need to put an end to it. In such efforts, the Church of England was established which later broke up into other dominations even in America and continued to fragment. Spread into other colonies continued which formed a network that enhanced population growth in America where religious freedom could be enjoyed abundantly. The Quakers and Puritans moved from their Europe and England homelands respectively as a result of religious intolerance. They settled in American states and this created new colonists such as the Dutch and English. Maryland was subdued by the Roman Catholics who could not withstand the religious turmoil that was in Europe (Tindall & David 30).
The Native Americans were sophisticated and worshipped the Great Spirit. Mayans for example engaged in rituals and sacrifices to appease their gods. They believed in animism where the Great Spirit was prevalent in all things and therefore, all things were socially related. This was dissimilar to the European way of thinking that put man in the forefront. Religious wars that cropped up in Europe were advantageous since they ultimately changed these Native Americans. Christianity thrived under these conditions establishing over nine hundred denominations and attracting a considerable number of Americans. The U.S became the first country in the western world to be established by Protestants unlike others that were based on the practices of the Roman Catholics. This clearly shows the ability for the U.S to independently express their original and a clear insolence of tradition. This created a religious evolution that facilitated cropping up of utopian values, religious fanaticism giving way to other religions such as Islam, puritans, Buddhism among others. This however did not fully resolve the issue of freedom since some groups like the puritans dominated and enforced its practices and those who couldn’t conform would be charged, penalized or even sent to prison. This did not continue for long before other religious organizations overruled them and the Great Awakening changed all this.
Religion was integral to politics, which initiated creation of various laws. These include the 1940s Cambridge Platform, the 1690s Salem Witchcraft Trials, the 1949 Act Concerning Religion, Massachusetts Proposals, Adopting Act of 1729 and the 1730s Great Awakening which enhanced the notion of religious freedom and a more advanced level of thinking. It is through the First constitutional Amendment that this was legally recognized (Tindall & David 38). The civil strife facilitated establishment of an entity which could draw a clear partition between the states and religion in the United States to meet the desires of its people. They also had to guarantee every individual to exercise their own faith without worries of harassment. The issue of detaching religion from state triggered debates where critics feared it would curb religious developments in America.
The great awakening was a product of enlightenment, which fragmented the Puritanism to achieve individual spirituality. Emotions characterized the time where the parties became extremists to form a rational thought that came to be referred to as Deism where God could be analyzed through nature. One of its followers was Jefferson who took advantage of the current religious instability to benefit the society since he disliked Christian orthodoxy. His stand on religious freedom was based on merits of enlightenment that allowed human conscience to rule and thus a higher degree of reason. The period before Great Awakening was characterized by national churches in subdued by the Europeans (Tindall & David 47). This was to change when the immigrants underwent revivalism that changed the religious direction and achieved a common identity. The period injected new ideologies in the American society that formed a foundation of the American Revolution. This was due to a higher degree of reason which became offended by the traditional thoughts. If religion was not present in the American society, this revivalism might not have been achieved and therefore, American Revolution would not have occurred. The English Puritanism indirectly benefitted America by helping to reveal an intellectual vision which acted as a primer where Revolution would be established.
In conclusion, religion played a crucial role in colonization of America and became an epicenter where cultural values would be founded. It is through the practice that a new world was founded and since then it has continued to thrive in the United States. It housed the many foreigners who sought religious freedom and benefited from the nation. In return, America got its tactics, which led to its Revolution and paved ways for other locals and foreigners to achieve financial benefits while contributing to economic growth.
Tindall, George B. and David, Emory S. America: A Narrative History. 8th Ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co Inc, 2009. Print.
The Catholic Church in the United States of America
This chapter explores the early days of the English colonies, when the rights of Catholics were not respected, to the end of the nineteenth century.
The English colonies were founded at the same time the Church was persecuted in England. Virginia colonists were members of the English Church in New England the colonists were Calvinists. Catholics were not permitted in these colonies. Catholics were excluded from the Dutch colony in New York and the Swedish settlement of Delaware also.
In 1683 James II appointed Thomas Dongan governor of New York and religious liberty was granted to all. The Jesuits built a Catholic chapel in New York City, and established a Latin school there in 1685. By 1700, laws against Catholics were again put into place. Catholics of New York had to travel to Philadelphia as late as the Revolutionary War to participate in Mass and receive the sacraments.
2. Was religious freedom permitted in Maryland?
Yes. A Catholic colony was settled in Maryland by Cecil Calvert in 1634. A church and school were built as Catholic settlers arrived, accompanied by Jesuit priests. They permitted religious freedom to others and, as a result, Protestants obtained control of the colony. The English Church was then established and Catholics were denied their right to vote. The religious freedom of Catholics in Maryland was then restricted until after the Revolutionary War.
3. Were Catholics given freedom in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Under William Penn, the Quakers in Pennsylvania permitted Catholics to practice their faith. In 1730 the Church was given greater security when a Jesuit, Fr. Joseph Greaton, settled in Philadelphia and had St. Joseph's Church built. When Catholic emigrants came from Germany, they too built churches. By the end of the French and Indian War there were only 7,000 Catholics in the English colonies. Most of them lived in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
4. Summarize the development of Catholicism in other parts of the New World.
The Capuchins built a chapel in New Orleans in 1721, just three years after the city was founded. They opened a school for boys. The French king gave the Ursuline sisters permission to settle in New Orleans and they opened the first convent in the United States. They built a hospital, an orphanage, and a school for girls.
Fr. Pierre Gibault left the seminary at Quebec, Canada, and came to labor for the Church in Vincennes, Makinac, Detroit, and Peoria. The priest blessed the first church in St. Louis in 1770. He made it possible for George Rogers Clark to gain possession of the great Northwest for the United States, which included what is now Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Attempts to colonize Florida failed at first because of the hostility of the Indians. Early missionaries did not succeed, even though as early as 1528 Fr. Juan Juarez, a Spanish Franciscan, was appointed bishop of Florida. He disappeared mysteriously. In 1549 a group of missionaries landed near Tampa Bay and within a few days all were savagely killed by the Indians.
Philip II in 1565 sent Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a leading naval leader of the Spanish Empire, to establish a colony in Florida. Twelve Franciscans and four Jesuits went with him to convert the Indians. Sailing along the Florida coast on August 28, 1565, Admiral Menendez saw an ideal peninsula and ordered the boats to drop anchor. On September 8 he proclaimed the founding of St. Augustine because the peninsula was found on the saint's feast day. missionaries spread out from St. Augustine to convert the Indians, with many priests losing their lives as the new, advancing civilization was resisted by the Indians.
Missionaries were determined to bring Christianity to Florida and so the priests who lost their lives were always replaced, and gradually St. Augustine developed and the new colony grew. The countryside became peaceful as missions and monasteries were founded throughout Florida and most of the Indians north of the Gulf of Mexico and east of the Mississippi River converted to the Catholic Church.
The French Huguenots then appeared and raided Spanish Catholic Indian settlements. Missionaries and the faithful were put to death with extreme cruelty. The British, who had been colonizing in the north, also began to destroy Spanish gains.
Governor Moore of South Carolina in 1704 directed a raid of the Apalachee Mission, valuable for food supplies. Franciscan missionaries were put to death 1,400 Indians were taken into slavery by the English governor and 800 Catholic Indians were killed.
Weakened, the Spanish signed the Treaty of Paris with England in 1763m ceding Florida to the British. The Catholic faith in Florida was then even more suppressed. At the end of the American Revolution, however, the United States government returned Florida to Spanish control. In 1821 Florida was purchased as part of the United States.
in 1598 Don Juan de Onate led an expedition to establish a colony in New Mexico. It consisted of 400 soldiers, 10 missionaries, 83 supply wagons and carts, and 7,000 head of stock. Onate went as far as Wichita, Kansas, and California. Onate's expeditions to New Mexico became an economic drain and the victory of New Spain assigned Pedro de Peralta to build a new capital and to colonize. This was done. He named a site, Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis, known today as Sante Fe (Holy Faith). Santa Fe was founded in 1609 and became the headquarters for future missions in New Mexico. By 1625 there were forty-three missions and 34, 000 Christian Indians.
A Jesuit priest, Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino, labored in the Upper Pima country, which is now the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Fr. Kino has been called "the most picturesque missionary pioneer of all North America â explorer, astronomer, cartographer, mission builder, ranchman, cattle king, and defender of the frontier." His maps were the most accurate of the time, winning fame in Europe.
Fr. Kino's mission of San Xavier del Bac, not far from what is Tucson, Arizona, is now a national monument, while still the parish church for the Pima Indians. It is the finest example of Spanish Renaissance architecture in the United States.
Fr. Kino traveled thousands of miles on horse, ever anxious to convert souls. Some of this trails became roads, and he kept journals of his extensive travels. His papers were preserved in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. While Fr. Kino won the faith of the Pima Indians for Jesus Christ, he was always sad that he did not succeed in converting the Apache Indians.
Fr. Kino died on March 15, 1711, in poverty, as he had lived. He is venerated as a great American pioneer.
The cause for canonization of Fr. Antonio Margil, who developed missions in Texas, has been introduced. One of the missions he founded near San Antonio (San Antonio de Bexar Mission) is still used as a parish church and has been declared a National Historic Site by both the state and nation. Margil is compared to Kino and Serra as among the greatest of Spanish missionaries.
The Spanish came to Texas first but met competition from the French, who came down the Mississippi River from Canada. La Salle built Fort Prudhomme in Tipton County and Fort St. Louis in Victoria County.
Besides San Antonio, the Spanish built the missions of San Saba, San Luis, and San Francisco de los Tejas (now a lost site). The Spanish built their missions not simply as churches for worshipers but to become self-sufficient communities with farms, cattle and ranches, and homes for Indians who worked at the mission â also homes for teachers, nurses, and guards. They built hospitals, schools, and guard posts as protection from Apache and Comanche Indians.
The Spanish crown withdrew support and in 1793 the mission of San Jos de Aguayo was suppressed by the Mexican government. The Franciscans had to leave when the new Mexican government took over the missions in 1824, and with the passing of years the mission was neglected. San Jos, which had earned the name Queen of the Missions, began to be restored to its former beauty in 1912 when the archdiocese of San Antonio began a restoration program. In 1941 arrangements began whereby it was named a National Historic Site.
Fr. Junipero Serra, the great missionary of California, has been named to the Statuary Hall of our nation's capitol for the state of California. Fr. Serrra arrived in the harbor of Veracruz, Mexico, on December 6, 1749, with a group of Franciscan missionaries assigned to evangelize the Indians of northern Mexico.
The Franciscans were welcomed in the New World missions. They avoided politicizing. The viceroy of Peru wrote to King Philip II: "They are the ones who preach the doctrine with the greatest care and example, and the least avarice." This was especially true of Fr. Juniper Serra.
Fr. Junipero was known for his great oratory, and his keen philosophical mind gave him a reputation among scholars. Nonetheless, he requested an assignment as a missioner. He said: "I have wanted to carry the Gospel teachings to those who have never heard of God and the kingdom He has prepared for them."
His real missionary work did not begin until he was 56 years old, after he spent nine years among the Toltec Indians in Serra Gord and seven years as an itinerant preacher from San Fernando College in Mexico City.
Learning of California and the needs of its Indians moved him. He then received permission to begin mission work there. His motto was "Always forward, never back."
Fr. Serra walked whenever possible, in spite of poor health. He carried on a most heroic conquest of America for Christ from 1750 until his death in 1784, with no other weapon than a crucifix and the love of God. He converted the solitudes of California into an earthly paradise â where formerly fierce Indian tribes attempted to annihilate each other in cannibalistic battles.
Fr. Serra founded nine important missions in California. His successors founded twelve more. The cities of California grew around these missions. San Diego, Carmel, San Gabriel, Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Capistrano, San Francisco â became centers of colonization and development in California.
Fr. Junipero Serra was always on the move, back and forth between his missions, urging all to greater charity and zeal and encouraging new converts. Not satisfied with simple conversion to the Catholic faith, this great Franciscan priest and missionary taught the Indians a better life by teaching them how to sow and harvest. He led in the development of farmlands and wine presses and helped build, with his own hands, forges, mills, and slaughter houses.
Fr. Serra once walked 2,400 miles to Mexico City to get retribution from the viceroy when a commandant of the Spanish military practiced cruelty to the Indians. His death at Carmel Mission, on August 28, 1784, marked the end of Spanish extension in the United States in the pioneer missionary era.
5. Did religion continue strong in the hearts of people after the early pioneer days?
To some extent it did, but once the hardships of the pioneer days were over and the descendants grew wealthy from trade and agriculture, the old religious spirit weakened among Protestants. The spirit of the Enlightenment overtook them and Rationalism dominated in too many cases, as many depended more on themselves than on God.
Thomas Paine, a leader of the revolutionary spirit, resembled in some respects the infidelity of Voltaire. Thoms Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a deist who sympathized with the Freethinkers of France.
Catholics were blessed with heroic and saintly missionaries. Their faith continued to spread. There were three Catholics among those who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation: Thomas Fitzsimmons, Daniel Carroll, and Charles Carroll of Carrolton.
The Carroll family of Maryland played a great role in the foundation of our American nation. One of the great Carroll family became a priest, namely John, who was born in Maryland on January 8, 1735. On July 1, 1784, Fr. John Carroll was appointed superior of the Catholic clergy in America. In 1789 Monsignor Carroll was appointed bishop, and was consecrated bishop of the United States in 1790, with his see at Baltimore.
When Bishop Carroll returned from England (where he was consecrated), he took a survey of his vast church. The first national census showed that in 1790 there were approximately 30,000 Catholics in a population of 3, 200,000. There were fewer than thirty priests for the widely scattered Catholic population. More than half the Catholics, about 16,000, lived in Maryland 7,000 lived in Pennsylvania 3,000 around Detroit and Vincennes, and 2,500 in Illinois.
6. How did the first bishop of the United States prosper in ruling the Church?
Bishop John Carroll was later named archbishop and he directed the Catholic Church in America for twenty-five years. He called the first Synod of Baltimore, which set up rules and regulations that had governed the Church until the present day. He founded Georgetown University, and when the Jesuit Order was restored in 1801, he asked the Jesuits to take over Georgetown.
Bishop Carroll influenced the Sulpicians to come to Baltimore and open the first seminary in the United States, which was named after the Blessed Virgin Mary. He invited Augustinians, Dominicans, Carmelites, Visitation nuns, and the Sisters of Charity to come to America to work.
Catholics began to emigrate to the United States by 1807. There were 14,000 Catholics in New York, compared with less than 100 seventeen years previously. The French Revolution drove many priests from France and they came to the United States and assisted Bishop Carroll.
In 1808 the Holy See elevated Baltimore to an archdiocese and created four new dioceses: Boston, New York, Bardstown, and Philadelphia.
When Archbishop Carroll died in 1808 at the age of 81, there were 200,000 Catholics in the United States and the Church showed signs of growing stability. Archbishop Carroll is attributed with being the spiritual leader and founder of the Catholic Church in the United States.
7. Did the early Catholics of the United States prove themselves loyal Americans?
Yes. When the Revolutionary war came they rallied to the cause of the patriots. At the time of the American Revolution, Catholics were only about 1 percent of the population of the colonies but they made great contributions.
Some Catholics rose to high positions, such as Commodore John Barry, who became Father of the American Navy. Many Catholics enlisted in the Continental army and the navy and a regiment of Catholic Indians came down from Maine. Catholic generals even came from Europe to help the War for Independence.
General Washington wrote to Monsignor John Carroll that he recognized the important aid given by Catholics and "a nation professing the Roman Catholic Faith" in the establishment of our government.
The loyalty of Catholics to their country, America, has been in evidence from the very early days and during its more than 200 years of history.
8. Did Catholics in the early years of the United States labor to establish schools?
Yes. From the beginning, Bishop Carroll and other bishops of the country labored to provide schools for Catholic children. The bishops met in Baltimore in 1829 and held the First Provincial Council. They declared: "We judge it absolutely necessary that schools should be established in which the young may be taught the principles of faith and morality while being instructed in letters."
Priests who escaped France during its revolution and came to the United States established missions, opening Catholic schools wherever possible.
9. Who was the Apostle of the Alleghenies?
Prince Demetrius Gallitzin was ordained in 1795 by Bishop John Carroll. His father was the Russian ambassador to Holland and he was born in the Hague in 1770. Demetrius had been prepared for a military career by his father, who scoffed at religion as he was an admirer of Voltaire. The elder Gallitzin kept religion from his son and even destroyed his wife's faith. In danger of death, the mother of Demetrius, when he was only 16, repented, called for a priest, and was reconverted. Upon her recovery she prayed to St. Monica, who in her own time had prayed for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine.
Amazed at his mother reconversion, when he had been taught to ridicule religion and revelation, Demetrius told how his curiosity was stimulated: "I soon felt convinced of the necessity of investigating the different religious systems, in order to find the true one. My choice fell upon the Catholic Church, and at the age of seventeen, I became a member of that Church."
After his conversion Demetrius continued his interest in military pursuits. Circumstances led him to come to America to offer his service to the infant army, but instead he became aware of the shortage of priests and offered himself to Bishop John Carroll to study for the priesthood. He entered the seminary at Baltimore.
After his ordination to the priesthood, he traveled westward and settled in the Allegheny Mountains. He labored among the people of western Pennsylvania for forty-one years. He labored for the Church both by the spoken and written word in the cause of truth. He defended the Church by writing, while all the while concealing the fact that he was a Russian prince.
Fr. Gallitzin built a mission center at Loretto, Pennsylvania, which grew to ten churches and three monasteries. His work covered the present dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, and Erie.
10. Relate the founding of seminaries in Kentucky and Missouri.
The first bishop of Bardstown was a Sulpician, Bishop Flaget. In 1811 he and another Sulpician, Fr. John David, founded a seminary in Kentucky which consisted of a couple of log cabins, with the bishop living in one and the seminarians in the other. Later they made bricks and cut wood to build a church and seminary building.
In 1817 the Vincentian fathers started a log-cabin seminary in similar manner west of the Mississippi in Missouri. It became Kenrick Theological Seminary of St. Louis.
11. What were other significant establishments for the early Church in America?
The diocese of Cincinnati originally included Ohio, Michigan, and the Northwest Territory. Its first bishop was Edward Fenwick, a Dominican who was appointed bishop in 1822. He established Athenaeum Seminary, which later became known as Mt. St. Mary's Seminary of the West.
Fr. Sorin and six lay brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross came to northern Indiana in 1841. They founded a college which was dedicated to Our Lady, and is still known as Notre Dame du Lac.
In 1792 the Poor Clares came from France to open a monastery at Frederick, Maryland. In 1801 they opened an academy at Georgetown, which later was taken charge of by the Pious Ladies, a religious order founded in the United States in 1799. This society later became part of the Visitation Order.
12. What made the great growth of the Catholic school system in the United States possible?
The self-sacrifice of good Catholic parents and religious brothers and sisters who labored for little, under a vow of poverty, made the Catholic school system possible. The early American Catholics desired to provide education for their children, whether from rich or poor families. Laws were passed by American churchmen commanding parents to send their children to Catholic schools whenever possible, and schools were established in all the states.
Many in the public school system were affected by the false spirit of the Enlightenment in Europe and they did not want the churches to have any influence in the public school system. Catholics came to the support of their bishops and built schools of their own, building one of the greatest Catholic school systems in the entire world. The sacrifice was great because most Catholic parents were poor and they received no help from the state. Instead, they had to help support, through taxes, the public school system.
Young men and women, dedicated to Christ and reared by good Catholic parents, left the world to join religious orders. These people became the backbone for the education of future Catholics in the United States Catholic school system.
The Christian Brothers, the Brothers of Mary, the Marists, the Xaverian Brothers, and the Brothers of the Holy Cross worked for the Catholic education of boys. Communities of nuns multiplied for the education of girls, and in many cases labored for the Catholic education of boys and girls.
Largely, it was a strong Catholic school system which assisted the Catholic Church in the United States to grow strong, with millions of devout Catholics.
13. Was the Catholic press an important organ for spreading the true faith in the early years of our country?
There were some earlier attempts, short-lived and without much success, but the first strictly Catholic newspaper in the United States was founded by Bishop John England of Charleston. In 1823 he founded the United States Catholic Miscellany. Thereafter other papers appeared under Catholic sponsorship. The oldest still-existing Catholic publication in the United States is The Pilot.
In 1833 Fr. John Martin Henni of Cincinnati, who later became the first archbishop of Milwaukee, founded a German weekly. A convert to the Church, Orestes A. Brownson became a great defender of Catholic truth when in 1844 he began publishing Brownson's Review every three months. The Catholic World, a magazine, began publication in 1865 under the Paulist fathers, founded by Fr. Isaac T. Hecker in New York City in 1858. Also in 1865, Fr. Sorin began to publish Ave Maria at Notre Dame. Although not strictly under official Church auspices, Der Wanderer was founded by the German Matt family in 1867 and has continued as an English edition since 1931, The Wanderer.
In more modern times, Monsignor Matthew Smith founded the Denver Catholic Register, later called The Register and currently called The National Catholic Register. The national edition of The Register began in 1924, although this paper had already existed for many years. Under Monsignor Smith it grew to a circulation of about 1 million, with the powerful pen of the monsignor campaigning for fair treatment of migrant workers, battling the bigoted Ku Klux Klan, promoting the rights of Mexican minorities, and promoting the Christian reunion movement. Monsignor Smith defended Catholic truth with his straightforward presentations in Catholic apologetics.
Another crusading Catholic journalist was John F. Noll, born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1875. Ordained June 4, 1898, Fr. Noll from the beginning was interested in helping Protestants to better understand Catholicism. He felt that, if truth was known, bigotry would disappear. He began by publishing the Parish Monthly, which grew into a magazine. The little magazine grew to include neighboring parishes.
When Bishop Noll became aware of new and growing anti-Catholic forces against the Church (from publications such as The Menace, The Peril, and The American Defender) and that socialism, with its materialism, was gaining political strength, he attempted to gain the support of the laboring class, to which Catholics largely belonged. Fr. Noll enlarged his paper and named it Our Sunday Visitor. In less than a year it had a weekly circulation of 200,000 and eventually 1 million.
The Catholic press in the United States, like the Catholic school system, grew to be the best in the world and had great influence on not only the defense but also the growth of authentic Catholicism.
14. Did the Catholic Church in the United States show interest in the Indians and black people?
The abuse of the Indians by the white man mars the pages of American history, as does the abuse of black people as slaves. While the new American civilization was in many ways an enemy to the Indians' nomadic manner of life, the Church befriended the Indian tribes from the very beginning. Many historical accounts could be given of "Blackrobes" helping the Indians, and significant examples are the following.
The Cheyenne were sent to reservations chosen by the white conquerors. Massacres took place. Wherever the Cheyenne went, priests were there to administer to their spiritual needs and seek justice for them. These included the Jesuits, the Edmundites, and the Capuchins.
The Navajos, who roamed the Southwest, were a talented tribe who learned the Spanish language as they were Christianized by the first Spanish missionaries Franciscans first preached to them. Fr. Bernard Haile O.F.M. made the first alphabet for the Navajo. His dictionary and anthropological works are still chief sources for knowledge about these people. The government tried unsuccessfully to remove these people to reservations in Oklahoma.
In Indiana, the Potawatomi Indians were under pressure of the government to be removed to Kansas. When Chief Menominee refused, the Indiana governor ordered them removed by force. The attack came on a Sunday morning, while the Indians, converted to Catholicism, were at Mass.
In South and North Dakota the Benedictines have labored long for the Indian people, as have other missionaries . The Benedictines still labor in the Dakotas, from their chief monastery, Blue Cloud Abbey, at Marvin, South Dakota.
In 1824 the Jesuits opened a school for Indian boys at Florissant, Missouri, while the Ladies of the Sacred Heart opened a school for Indian girls there. Later the Vincentian fathers took charge of the Indian missions on the Mississippi River. The Jesuits took charge of those on the Missouri. In 1840, Fr. John de Smet established missions among the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1842, in New Orleans, Bishop Blanc founded the Sisters of the Holy Family to take care of black people, especially orphans and the aged.
In 1866 the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore met, with the bishops urging priests "as far as they can to consecrate their thoughts, their time and themselves, wholly and entirely if possible, to the service of the colored people."
A large congregation of Negro Catholics formed St. Francis Xavier's Church in Baltimore, when in 1871 four young priests who had studied for the missions in England were put in charge. This marked the beginning of St. Joseph's Society for Colored Catholics â the Josephite Fathers. As the society grew, missions for black people spread throughout the South.
Mother Catherine Drexel founded a new order of nuns in 1889. They called themselves the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and devoted themselves to spreading the Catholic faith to the blacks and Indians of the United States.
To the present day there are Catholic missions among the colored people and the Indians. The Commission for Catholic Missions reported in the 1970s that missions are located in twenty-five states: 157 in the Southwest, 63 in the Northwest, 60 in the Dakotas, 45 in Alaska, 36 in the Great Lakes area, and 40 in other states.
15. Has the Catholic Church admitted black people to the hierarchy in the United States?
The first black bishop in United States Catholic history was Bishop James A. Healy
. He headed the diocese of Portland, Maine, from 1875 to 1900, and suffered much because of his mixed ancestry. Born in Macon, Georgia, on April 6, 1830, Bishop Healy was the son of an Irish immigrant plantation owner and a mother who was a slave. The bishop's brother was Jesuit Fr. Patrick F. Healy, who became the twenty-ninth president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Another brother was Monsignor Sherood Healy, who became rector of Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral. Two sisters of the Healy family (of ten children) became nuns.
Bishop Healy studied for the priesthood in Sulpician seminaries in Montreal and Paris, and was ordained in Paris in 1854. In his diary for the year 1863, commenting on the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the rebel states, Fr. Healy noted "there were going to be terrible problems for all the freedmen to make their way."
In 1977 Pope Paul VI established a new diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, and named Bishop Joseph L. Howze the first black bishop to head a diocese-appointed in the twentieth century in the United States. Bishop Howze had been auxiliary bishop of Natchez â Jackson in 1972 but in 1977 was named head of the Biloxi diocese, formed from the diocese of Natchez â Jackson which had included all of Mississippi. In 1972 he was only the third black person to become a Catholic bishop in the United States. In 1975 the Holy See named Josephite Fr. Eugene A. Marino, auxiliary bishop of Washington and the fourth black bishop in United States history.
By the 1970s the number of black Catholics was estimated to be more than 900,000, in a total black population estimated to number more than 22 million. There were 666 Catholic parishes that were entirely or predominantly black. These parishes were served by 1,014 pastors or assistant pastors of missions and parishes. Also, the black population in more recent years has moved from the Southern United States, until nearly two out of three Catholic Negroes now live in the largest Eastern, Midwestern, and Western cities.
16. Did Catholics find freedom from bigotry after the Constitution guaranteed religious liberty?
In many cases, no. The idea that one could not be a good American and a good Catholic at the same time was introduced to this country from Europe. Unscrupulous politicians used it to their advantage in appealing to hatred of the Catholic Church.
In 1837 an organization was formed, Native Americans, that apparently forgot that the Indian people are the natives. This organization developed into the Know Nothing Party, and when a papal representative came to the United States in 1853, he was mobbed by its members in Cincinnati.
Persecution of Catholics resulted all over the country, and Catholic churches were destroyed. A Jesuit priest was tarred and feathered in Bangor, Maine. Riots broke out in cities like Louisville and St. Louis, and blood was shed. A movement was on to keep Catholics from holding public office and having the right to vote.
Archbishop John Hughes, who was made bishop of New York in 1842, did everything he could to defend the Church from this bigotry and intolerance. At first he tried to win public support for Catholic schools. Realizing he was defeated and that, unjustly, Catholics had to pay taxes for education from which they did not benefit, he worked hard to build and staff a Catholic school in every parish.
Archbishop Hughes, the first archbishop of New York, continued to fight the Native Americans and the Know Nothing Party, at the same time demonstrating great patriotism for America. He eventually won support from fair-minded Americans who were not Catholic, but bigotry has never entirely disappeared from the American scene.
17. What was the bigotry represented by the Ku Klux Klan?
The Ku Klux Klan was a bigotry movement that was anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Semitic, and anti-alien. The American Protective Association (APA) first appeared in 1887 it spread throughout the country but its main strength was in the Midwest. It sought to repeal naturalization laws, to forbid teaching of foreign languages in public schools, and to tax Church property. This movement followed in 1915 when thirty-four men, meeting under a blazing cross on a mountaintop near Atlanta, Georgia, pledged loyalty to the "Invisible Empire." This was the origin (in modern days) of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan used murder, beatings, and tar and feathers as they spread hatred and misunderstanding. Membership was placed at 1,200,000 by 1922. In 1925 it claimed 5 million members, living in every state, the Canal Zone, and Alaska. Its symbols became the burning cross and hooded white figures. Burning crosses were sometimes placed in front of Catholic churches. In Pennsylvania, a court trial produced evidence of Klan-inspired riots, floggings, kidnappings, and even murder.
The Klan gained strength in the Democratic Party and is considered to have played a large role in the prejudice that hindered Governor Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic ever nominated, from being elected president of the United States in 1928. His presidential campaign stirred prejudice that brought wild anti-Catholic emotions into the open. Among the extreme methods was circulation of a false oath, purported to be the secret Knights of Columbus oath.
The 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, the first United States president who was Catholic, was an occasion for anti-Catholic prejudice again to surface. While the prejudice was not as severe as in 1928, the bogus Knights of Columbus oath again appeared, sermons were preached against a Catholic president, and false accusations were again circulated.
18. Does anti-Catholic bigotry still continue?
Yes. Protestants and Other Americans Unite (POAU) has spread much anti-Catholic sentiment in recent years.
Evidence that anti-Catholicism is not dead was see in May 1973, when need for a Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was noted. Patterned after the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, it seeks to champion the rights of Catholics and the Bill of Rights. It seeks to make public exposure, where necessary, of anti-Catholicism and to negotiate anti-Catholic prejudices with offenders.
19. What canonized saints did the United States produce in its first 200 years of history?
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) was the first American citizen to be canonized (in 1946). Born in Italy, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1877, settled in the United States in 1889, and became an American citizen at Seattle in 1909. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini labored among Italian immigrants.
Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized as the first native-born citizen of the United States in 1976, when America celebrated its 200th birthday as a nation. St. Elizabeth Ann (1774-1821), a convert to the Catholic Church, founded the Sisters of Charity in the United States.1
Bishop John Nepomucene Neumann, who was born in Bohemia in 1811, was ordained a priest in New York in 1836. He became a missionary among Germans near Niagara Falls, then joined the Redemptorist Order. In 1852 he became the bishop of Philadelphia. Canonized in June 1977, John Neumann was the first United States bishop to prescribe Forty Hours devotion to our Lord (in the Blessed Sacrament) for his diocese.2
20. Have Catholics demonstrated their patriotism whenever the United States has been at war?
Yes. During World War I, although Catholics at that time were about 17 percent of the population, it is estimated that between 25 and 35 percent of the army and about 50 percent of the navy were Catholic. This is attributed to the fact that our Catholic schools have always taught patriotism. During this war, Catholic priests became outstanding as chaplains, the best known being Fr. Francis P. Duffy of the famous Fighting Sixty-Ninth.
One of every four members of the armed forces was Catholic in World War II. Again, at least half of the navy was Catholic, as was a high percentage of the Marine Corps. Many Catholics received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration for heroic service beyond the call of duty.
In various wars of the United States, the loyalty and contributions of Catholics have been obvious. Catholics again showed their loyalty in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The manner in which the Vietnam War was fought proved very controversial, although its anti-communism aim was worthy.
Patriotism, which is love of one's country, was taught by Christ, who said we should give our country its due. St. Paul wrote that we should be obedient to just authority. Patriotism is related to justice and an ally of charity, which requires us to love our fellow countrymen. The Church, however, does not teach blind patriotism or excessive and inordinate affection for one's country, to the detriment of the rights of other nations. This is nationalism, which is opposed to the unity of the human race. In modern times, nazism, fascism, and communism are disguised and extreme forms of nationalism.
It is true that there have been many cases of great patriotism and heroism among non-Catholic chaplains, but it's a fact that only four chaplains have received the nation's highest decoration, presented in the name of Congress for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the normal call of duty." All four were Catholics.
21. Has the Catholic Church in the United States had a record of befriending the rights of the workingman?
Yes. Catholic immigrants made a large proportion of the working force in the United States and their bishops have long worked for social reform and justice in the conditions of labor. In the development of the labor movement, the Catholic Church has worked to protect the rights of the laboring man while, at the same time, protecting him from capitalistic abuses and exploitation by socialistic and atheistic forces. Communist forces have long sought to gain the favor of the workingman by deceit.
As socialistic groups attempted to take over the labor movement for their own ends, the Church has sometimes found itself in delicate positions, working to defend the social rights of the laboring force while not condemning labor organizations. Attempts were made, however, to make the Catholic Church appear to be a friend of the powerful rich and the enemy of the helpless poor.
Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) won the support of another champion for the rights of labor â Archbishop John Ireland (1839-1918) of St. Paul and two other bishops. These bishops prepared a special document, examining the Knights of Labor to forestall any misunderstanding that the Church was condemning the right of labor to organize for their rights and against abuses. Cardinal Gibbons took the document to Rome with him in 1887, when he received the "red hat" for his cardinalate.
This effort won an official Church position that saved the workingman for the Catholic Church in the United States, and had great influence on Pope Leo XIII. In 1891 this pope issued his historic encyclical, Rerum Novarum.
22. What did the encyclical "Rerum Novarum" concern and how did the Church follow its teachings?
Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII, dealt with the conditions of the working class and laid down the principles of social justice. After this great, progressive encyclical, Catholic social doctrine has steadily presented successive authoritative documents.
An outstanding encyclical after Rerum Novarum is Quadrogesimo Anno by Pope Pius XI, issued in 1931-forty years after the first great social pronouncement of the Church. These were followed by Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), by Pope John XXIII in 1961 and 1963. In 1967 Pope Paul VI issued Populorum Progressio (Development of Peoples).
In 1965, Vatican Council II issued the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which deals with the dignity of the human person, the problem of atheism, the community of mankind, etc. It also deals with the nobility of marriage and the family, culture and socioeconomic life, the political community, and the fostering of peace.
In America, in particular, the Catholic Church has best identified itself with the welfare of the laboring man, as leaders pioneered paths for social justice. Many Catholic bishops and priests have labored to implement the Church's social doctrines, outlined in official Church documents. Too frequently, however, the social doctrines of the Church have not been properly taught or implemented.
23. How did the bishops of the United States coordinate their efforts in a young and growing country?
The bishops of the expanding dioceses met at Baltimore for seven provincial councils between 1829 and 1849. In 1846 they named the Mother of God, under her title of Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States. This was eight years before the dogma was proclaimed by the universal Church.
The first of three plenary councils of Baltimore was held after the establishment of the archdiocese of Oregon City in 1846 and the elevation to metropolitan status of St. Louis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and New York.
Archbishop Francis P. Kenrick of Baltimore served as papal legate at the first plenary assembly, which convened May 9, 1852. Regulations were drawn up concerning parish life, liturgical ritual and ceremonies, administration of funds, and the teaching of Christian doctrine.
The second plenary council met from October 7 to 21, 1866, and was presided over by Archbishop Martin J. Spalding. It dealt with current doctrinal errors, norms for the organization of dioceses, the education and conduct of the clergy, the management of church property, parish duties, and general education.
The third plenary council, held from November 19 to December 7, 1884, was called into session by Archbishop James Gibbons (who was later named a cardinal of the Church). It provided for preparation of a line of "Baltimore catechisms" which have served (even to the present) as a basic means of religious education. It called for building Catholic elementary schools in all parishes, establishment of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., (in 1889), and the six Holy Days of Obligation for the United States.
The Holy See established an apostolic delegation at Washington, D.C., on January 24, 1893.
24. What system of coordination have the Catholic bishops of the United States used in modern times?
In 1917, under the title National Catholic War Council, the bishops mobilized the Church's resources. Several years later it changed its name to National Catholic Welfare Conference. Its objectives were to serve as an advisory and coordinating agency of American bishops for advancing the works of the Church in social action, education, communications, immigration, legislation, and youth and lay organizations.
The organization of American bishops was renamed the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) in November 1966, when the hierarchy organized itself as a territorial conference under the title National Conference of Catholic Bishops. USCC carries on the work of the former NCWC.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops elects one of its members as president for a term of three years. In many respects, the president of the NCCB becomes a chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in America, but he must work in harmony with all the American bishops.
25. What have American Catholics done to demonstrate their devotion to the Mother of God as their patroness?
To demonstrate their dedication to the Mother of God, American Catholics in 1914 launched the project for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Washington, D.C., in the nation's capital. The shrine, dedicated November 20, 1959, is the seventh largest religious building in the world, with normal seating capacity for 6,000 persons and up to 8,000 persons in attendance on occasion. Each year, approximately 1 million persons visit the shrine, which is adjacent to the Catholic University of America. The huge undertaking was financed by contributions from Catholics throughout the country.
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception's many chapels are dedicated to, and depict, God's Mother under her various titles.
This chapter has taken us from the early days of the English colonies, when the rights of Catholics were not respected, to the end of the nineteenth century, when great churchmen fought for the rights of the laboring man, who, with his family, made the Catholic Church grow from 30,000 souls in 1790 to over 50 million by the latter part of the 1970s. The chapter has also introduced us to the present era.
Catholics in the United States have often had to fight against bigotry. Although, in the present day, Catholics are the largest single Christian body, much prejudice against the Catholic faith still remains, though it is not as violent as it was in the first two centuries of our country. The celebration of the country's bicentennial in 1976 found America beginning its third century with much residual, if more sophisticated, bigotry.
Catholics have suffered when their rights have been suppressed. A minority among Protestants, who represented hundreds of differing religious communities in the United States alone, Catholics have not always fought for their rights as well as they could have. At the same time, the struggle of Catholic leaders, among both the clergy and laity (as in the case of labor), has greatly enhanced the human rights of the entire country.
The Catholic Church has made great contributions in the United States in many areas â in its schools, its hospitals, and vast charitable works. Catholics have also made significant contributions to science in the United States. They have been part of the exploration of space, just as they were in exploring the New World after the discovery of America. Catholics have also made significant contributions in the United States in literature, the arts and social justice.
Questions for Discussion
- Describe the kinds of restrictions Catholics met in the English colonies.
- What happened to the freedom of Catholics in the colony that was founded to give Catholics freedom?
- What Catholic family played a great role in the foundation of our country? Which member of this prominent family held an important position in the early Church in the United States?
- What did the first bishop of the United States do to help the Church prosper?
- What did the early Catholics in the United States do about schools?
- Relate the story of the prince who became a priest in the United States.
- What made possible the great growth of the Catholic school system in the United States?
- Did the Catholic press have any influence on Catholic life during the first 200 years of our nation? Explain.
- Has the Catholic Church done anything for the Indians and black people in the United States? Explain.
- What did the Know Nothing Party try to do?
- Explain the purpose and activities of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Has religious bigotry ceased in the United States? Explain.
- Who were the first three canonized saints among American citizens>
- Has the history of Catholics proved to be one of patriotism toward their country, the United States? Explain with examples.
- What has been the relationship of the Catholic Church to the working class in the United States?
- What could have been the outcome of the relationship of the laboring people to the Catholic Church in the United States if leaders among our bishops had not developed deep insights to the problems of working people and thus kept the pope correctly informed?
- What have Catholics in the United States done in the past century to manifest their love and devotion for the Mother of God?
- Why was the Catholic faith so strong and why did its membership grow so rapidly during the first 200 years of our country?
Fox, Rev. Robert J. "The Catholic Church in the United States of America." Chapter 16 in A Catechism of Church History: 2,000 Years of Faith and Tradition (Alexandra: Park Press Quality Printing, Jubilee 2000 Edition), 165-182.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher and by the author, Fr. Robert J. Fox.
The one book that deals with all of North American Christianity as defined in this article is Robert T. Handy's A History of the Churches in the United States and Canada (New York, 1977). It is clear and straightforward, written from the perspective of church history and with meticulous attention to detail.
For American (U.S.) Christianity, the most exhaustive source, highlighting the theme of Puritanism, is the monumental work by Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, 1972). More concise but also informative is Winthrop S. Hudson's Religion in America, 3d ed. (New York, 1981). My book America: Religions and Religion (Belmont, Calif., 1981) offers a different approach from the previous works, employing the perspectives of history of religions and interdisciplinary history to study the counterpoint between the manyness and oneness of American religion(s).
As a collection of essays that masterfully explores denominationalism and other central themes in American religious history, the classic work by Sidney E. Mead, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America (New York, 1963), is insightful and rewarding. The Historical Atlas of Religion in America, rev. ed. (New York, 1976), by Edwin S. Gaustad, is invaluable as a religious atlas. The book is especially useful for its careful charts and graphics. Another invaluable work of historical craftsmanship, edited by Edwin S. Gaustad, is his two-volume documentary collection, A Documentary History of Religion in America, vol. 1, To the Civil War, and vol. 2, Since 1865 (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1982 – 1983). The documents, selected to show a pluralism present in American religious history from the first, contain a wealth of materials for the beginner or the more advanced student. With the possible exception of Mead's essays, all the works above consider American Christianity not exclusively, but as the largest theme in the religious mosaic of the United States, which they seek to describe comprehensively.
Among more specialized studies in American Christianity, Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America (New York, 1970) by Martin E. Marty, republished in a second edition as Protestantism in the United States: Righteous Empire (New York, 1986), is still the best treatment of Protestantism, reading it in terms of its impact on culture and cultural imperialism. For Roman Catholicism, the account by John Tracy Ellis, American Catholicism, 2d ed., rev. (Chicago, 1969), is yet the classic short work. The book by Henry Warner Bowden, American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict (Chicago, 1981), is sensitive to the contact situation but suggestive more than comprehensive as a treatment of the Christianization of Amerindian peoples in American territory. Still, its account of Huronia provides a highly readable introduction to the work of the Jesuits in New France. The pathbreaking work by Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (Oxford, 1978), considerably advances the study of black Christianity. More comprehensive in scope but written to argue a distinct theological agenda is Gayraud S. Wilmore's Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of Afro-American People, 2d ed., rev. and enl. (Maryknoll, N.Y., 1983). Even with the theological tour de force, it is the best survey presently available.
Lamentably, Canadian Christianity has not received nearly the scholarly attention that its American counterpart has. The most useful short history, though dated, is H. H. Walsh's The Christian Church in Canada (Toronto, 1956). More recent and more expansive is the three-volume work, A History of the Christian Church in Canada, produced under the general editorship of John Webster Grant. The first volume of this trilogy, The Church in the French Era: From Colonization to the British Conquest (Toronto, 1966), also by H. H. Walsh, intersperses nuanced biographical sketches in its chronicle of events and offers an absorbing, contextualistic account. The second volume, by John S. Moir, The Church in the British Era: From the British Conquest to Confederation (Toronto, 1972), continues the chronicle to 1867 within a crisp and comprehensive church historical framework. The third volume, The Church in the Canadian Era: The First Century of Confederation (Toronto, 1972), by John Webster Grant, completes the series in somewhat more discursive fashion. For a more popular and colloquial introduction, there is the handsome and illustrated Religion in Canada: The Spiritual Development of a Nation, by William Kilbourn, A. C. Forrest, and Patrick Watson (Toronto, 1968). Its impressionistic surveys sweep through Canadian religious history, virtually all of it Christian, to good effect and its photo essays prove rewarding complements to the text. And for a useful documentary collection, see the volume edited by John S. Moir, The Cross in Canada (Toronto, 1966).
More specialized accounts of Canadian Christianity include the important work of John Webster Grant, Moon of Wintertime (Toronto, 1984), chronicling the ambiguous encounter between Christian missionaries and Canadian Indians since 1534. More regionally specific, the brief but impressive study by Cornelius J. Jaenen, The Role of the Church in New France (Toronto, 1976), supersedes the Walsh volume on New France and argues the role of Catholic Counter-Reformation piety in its cultural formation. Likewise studying Catholicism in Quebec is the work by Nive Voisine with the collaboration of Andr é Beaulieu and Jean Hamelin, Histoire de l' É glise catholique au Qu é bec, 1608 – 1970 (Montreal, 1971). It is regrettably without notes or index. L' É glise catholique au Canada, 1604 – 1886 (Trois-Rivieres, 1970) by the Abb é Hermann Plante is more widely ranging but unfortunately ends in the late nineteenth century and also contains neither notes nor index.
The short introduction by Douglas J. Wilson, The Church Grows in Canada (Toronto, 1966), although it purports to be a general study, almost entirely concerns Protestantism. Its thumbnail sketches of denominations and sectarian movements are useful, but there are inaccuracies. A classic study of evangelism and revivalism in Canada, dated in its interpretive framework but rich in its use of primary source materials and lively, if lengthy, in its account, is Church and Sect in Canada (Toronto, 1948) by S. D. Clark. Finally, Church and State in Canada West: Three Studies in the Relation of Denominationalism and Nationalism, 1841 – 1867 (1959 reprint, Toronto, 1968) by John S. Moir surveys issues regarding the clergy reserves and education in Canada West (Upper Canada).
Albanese, Catherine L. America: Religion and Religions. 2d ed., Belmont, Calif., 1992.
Brauer, Jerald C., ed. The Lively Experiment Continued. Macon, Ga., 1987.
Dorrien, George. The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion 1805 – 1900. Louisville, Ky., 2001.
Dorrien, George. The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity 1900 – 1950. Louisville, Ky., 2003.
Eck, Diana. A New Religious America. New York, 2001.
Gausted, Edwin F., and Mark A. Knoll, eds. A Documentary History of Religion in America. 3d ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., 2003.
Hackett, David G., ed. Religion and American Culture. New York and London, 1995.
Hall, Donald A. Lived Religion in America. Princeton, N.J., 1997.
Lippy, Charles H. Being Religious, American Style. Westport, Conn., 1994.
Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1992.
Pinn, Anthony B. The Varieties of African American Religious Experience. Minneapolis, 1998.
West, Cornell, and Eddie S. Glaude Jr., eds. African American Religious Thought. Louisville, Ky., 2003.