The Myth of American Religious Freedom, Updated Edition (Paperback)
  • The Myth of American Religious Freedom, Updated Edition (Paperback)

The Myth of American Religious Freedom, Updated Edition (Paperback)

Paperback 382 Pages / Published: 12/11/2015
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In the battles over religion and politics in America, both liberals and conservatives often appeal to history. But in The Myth of American Religious Freedom, historian David Sehat provides an eye-opening history of religion in public life that overturns our most cherished myths. Originally, he shows, the First Amendment applied only to the federal government, which had limited authority. On the state level, a Protestant moral establishment ruled over Catholics, Jews, Mormons, agnostics, and others. Not until 1940 did the Supreme Court extend the First Amendment to the states. As the Court began to dismantle the connections between religion and government, religious conservatives mobilized to maintain their power and began the culture wars of the last fifty years. To trace the rise and fall of this Protestant establishment, Sehat focuses on a series of dissenters-abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, progressive pundit Walter Lippmann, and many others. Shattering myths held by both the left and the right, this book forces us to rethink some of our most deeply held political beliefs.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780190247218
Number of pages: 382
Weight: 560 g
Dimensions: 233 x 164 x 23 mm

From the previous edition: "The Myth of American Religious Freedom is a clear, well-argued, carefully researched book that serves as a model of the ways in which excellent and thorough scholarship can also be relevant to contemporary American life.... Wonderful, important, and refreshingly iconoclastic. * Church History *
Sehat has written a wonderful intellectual history of the United States addressing a topic of perpetual concern to Americans since the founding. * American Historical Review *
This is a compelling history and is engagingly told... This excellent book advances an interesting twist on the traditional legal interpretations of the free exercise clause and makes a compelling case for a careful reexamination of our assumptions regarding its history.... More than any other book I have read over the last six months, I find myself continuously referencing this analysis. * Law and Politics Book Review *
This is a smart and sophisticated book. It should be widely, and carefully, read. * Journal of Church and State *
Sobering and persuasive. * The Christian Century *
David Sehat boldly slices through all of American history. * The Journal of American History *
[Sehat] makes his case convincingly...A knowledge of Sehat's argument would elevate the substance of contemporary political debates about the separation of church and state, about religious tests for political office, and about finding common moral ground. * Southern Humanities Review *
A short review cannot do justice to David Sehat's complex book...a detailed history of federal and state policies affecting religion...persuasive. * The Journal of Southern History *
Sehat provides food for thought...he unmasks and attacks the moral establishments across American history. * Kirkus *
New and compelling... timely... an important corrective to the ongoing culture wars between the religious right, which claims this country was birthed on a Christian foundation, and secularists, who insist that the First Amendment spells out a separation of church and state. * Publishers Weekly *
The Myth of American Religious Freedom is a clear, well-srgued, carefully researched book that serves as a model of the ways in which excellent and thorough scholarship can also be relevant to contemporary American life... a wonderful, important, and refreshingly iconoclastic book... * Matthew Avery Sutton, Washington State University *
This vigorously argued, carefully documented book traces the coercive function of religiously derived moral norms throughout the history of American law and politics. Sehat gives little comfort to today's advocates of a greater role for religion in public life, but he also calls into question the historical foundation of most defenses of a sharp church-state separation. This smart, provocative book invites a wide and attentive readership. * David A. Hollinger, President, Organization of American Historians, 2010-2011 *
David Sehat is a myth-demolishing historian in the mold of C. Vann Woodward and Edmund Morgan. Just as they destroyed myths about liberty, slavery, and segregation, Sehat now devastates the idea that the United States was born, reared, and raised in religious freedom. He shows that, instead, control and power have long dominated American religious history. This is a rich and sad saga that delves brilliantly into law, politics, and reform. Deeply researched and passionately argued, The Myth of American Religious Freedom transforms how we think about religion and the United States. * Edward J. Blum, author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 *

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