Church and State in American History : Key Documents, Decisions, and Commentary from Five Centuries book cover
4th Edition

Church and State in American History
Key Documents, Decisions, and Commentary from Five Centuries

ISBN 9780367077310
Published November 11, 2019 by Routledge
568 Pages

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Book Description

Church and State in American History illuminates the complex relationships among the political and religious authority structures of American society, and illustrates why church-state issues have remained controversial since our nation’s founding. It has been in classroom use for over 50 years.

John Wilson and Donald Drakeman explore the notion of America as “One Nation Under God” by examining the ongoing debate over the relationship of church and state in the United States. Prayers and religious symbols in schools and other public spaces, school vouchers and tax support for faith-based social initiatives continue to be controversial, as are arguments among advocates of pro-choice and pro-life positions. The updated 4th edition includes selections from colonial charters, Supreme Court decisions, and federal legislation, along with contemporary commentary and incisive interpretations by modern scholars. Figures as divergent as John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, James Madison, John F. Kennedy, and Sandra Day O’Connor speak from these pages, as do Robert Bellah, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The continuing public and scholarly interest in this field, as well as a significant evolution in the Supreme Court’s church-state jurisprudence, renders this timely re-edition as essential reading for students of law, American History, Religion, and Politics.

Table of Contents



1 The Language of Colonial Establishments (-1700)


John Cotton, A Discourse About Civil Government

Roger Williams, Queries of Highest Consideration (1644)

Anne Hutchinson, The Examination

of Anne Hutchinson (1637)

Articles, Lawes, and Orders, Divine, Politic,

and Martiall for the Colony in Virginia (1610-1611)

Preface to the Fundamental Orders of

Connecticut (1638-1639)

An Act Concerning Religion in the

Maryland Colony (1649)

The Charter of Rhode Island and

Providence Plantations (1663)

Preface to the Frame of Government of Pennsylvania

The Fundamental Constitutions of

Carolina (1669-1698)

    1. Leon Higginbotham, Sr., Race and the American

Legal Process: The Colonial Period

  1. Ethnic Diversity and Evangelical Differentiation (1700-1760)
  2. Introduction

    The Connecticut Establishment

    And Provision for Dissent (1708)

    The Confession of Faith of the

    Christians Called Mennonites

    Grievances Against the

    Connecticut Establishment (1751)

    Samuel Davies on Behalf of

    Dissenters in Virginia (1752)

    Edwin S. Gaustad, Institutional

    Effects of the Great Awakening

  3. The Struggle for Independence and the Terms of Settlement


The Threat of an Anglican Establishment

Thomas Bradbury Chandler, Chandler’s Appeal

on Behalf of Anglicans in America

Colonial Criticism of the Appeal (1768)

Church-State Issues in the States

Articles II and III of the Massachusetts Constitution [1780]

Justice Theophilus Parsons’ opinion

in Barnes v. Falmouth (1810)

James Madison, Madison’s

Memorial and Remonstrance (1785)

Jefferson’s Act for Establishing

Religious Freedom (1786)

A Petition Relating to Church Establishment (1786)

Monica Najar, Baptist Churches and the Construction of Civil Order

Church, State and the Constitution

House and Senate Debates concerning the

First Amendment (1789)

Occasional Documents Regarding Religion and Government

Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)

Jefferson on the Question of Fast Days (1808)

Robert T. Handy, The Magna Carta of

Religious Freedom in America


4 The Era of Republican Protestantism (1820-1860)


Joseph Story on the Religion

Clauses of the Bill of Rights (1833)

Jasper Adams’ Sermon on the Relation of Christianity to Civil

Government (1833)

Madison’s letter in response to Adams’ Sermon

Lyman Beecher on Disestablishment

in Connecticut (1820)

Abner Kneeland, Blasphemy on Trial (1838)

Ezra Stiles Ely, A Christian

Party in Politics (1827)

Lyman Beecher, Beecher’s

Strategy for the West (1835)

Richard M. Johnson, A Jacksonian

Criticism of the Protestant Phalanx (1829)

William Ellery Channing, A Religious

Liberal’s Criticism of the Protestant Strategy (1829)

Calvin Colton, Colton on the True

Character of the Evangelical Enterprise (1836)

Vincent Harding, The Black Struggle

for Freedom in America

James F. Maclear, The True American

Union of Church and State

5 The Recognition of American Pluralism (1860-1920)

The Public Schools as Divisive

Judge Storer, The Bible in the Common Schools

Judge Welch, The Bible in The Public Schools

Samuel T. Spear, Religion and The State (1876)

"Americanism," Protestant and Catholic

Washington Gladden, The Anti-Catholic Crusade

Josiah Strong, America the Embodiment of

Christian Anglo-Saxon Civilization

E.B. Brady, An American

Catholic on Church and State

John Ireland, D.D., Catholicism and Americanism

Robert D. Cross, Catholicism and a Non-Catholic State

American Governments and Religious Institutions

Philip Schaff, The American Theory and System

James Bryce, The Churches and the Clergy

T.M. Cooley, Constitutional Limitations

Regarding Religious Liberty

The Constitution and Religious Liberty

Reynolds v. United States (1879)

Davis v. Beason (1890)

6 Mainstream Pluralism (1920-1960)

Church and State in Religious Perspectives

John A. Ryan, Comments on the

"Christian Constitution of States"

John Courtney Murray, S.J., Civil

Unity and Religious Integrity

John Coleman Bennett, Patterns of

Church-State Relations – Grounds for Separation

Richard L. Rubenstein, Church and

And State: The Jewish Posture

Church and State as a Political Issue

Catholic and Patriot: Governor Smith Replies

Paul Blanshard, The Catholic Plan for America

John F. Kennedy, Remarks on Church and State

Church and State as a Juridical Problem

Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940)

Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940)

West Virginia State Board of

Education v. Barnette (1943)

Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

Illinois ex rel. McCollum v.

Board of Education (1948)

Zorach v. Clauson (1952)

Mark DeWolfe Howe, The Constitutional Question


7 Dimensions of Increasing Pluralism (1960- ): Church-State Issues

Religion and Public Education

Engel v. Vitale (1962)

School District of Abington

Township v. Schempp (1963)

Stone v. Graham (1980)

Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)

School Prayer Amendment

Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)

Lee v. Weisman (1992)

Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches (1993)

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)

Santa Fe Independent School

District v. Doe (2000)

Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001)

Locke v. Davey (2004)

Aid to Religious Schools

John Courtney Murray, S.J. Remarks

on Aid to Parochial Schools

Edd Doerr, The People Speak:

Parochial and the Voters

A.E. Dick Howard, Up Against the Wall:

The Uneasy Separation of Church and State

Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)

Mueller v. Allen (1983)

Witters v. Washington Department

of Services for the Blind (1986)

Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills

School District (1993)

Kiryas Joel Village School

District v. Grumet (1994)

Agostini v. Felton (1997)

Mitchell v. Helmes (2008)

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002)

Religion and Governmental Activity

McGowan v. Maryland (1961)

Marsh v. Chambers (1983)

Lynch v. Donnelly (1984)

County of Allegheney v. ACLU (1989)

Capital Square v. Pinette (1995)

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)

Van Orden v. Perry (2005)

Town of Greece v. Galloway (2014)

Trump v. Hawaii (2018)


8 Dimensions of Inclusive Pluralism (1960- ): Religious Liberty Issues

The Scope of Religious Liberty

Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)

Sherbert v. Verner (1963)

State of Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

McDaniel v. Paty (1978)

Thomas v. Review Board (1981)

United States v. Lee (1982)

Goldman v. Weinberger (1986)

Bowen v. Roy (1986)

Lyng v. Northwest Indian

Cemetery Protective Association (1988)

Frazee v. Illinois Department of

Employment Security (1989)

Employment Division v. Smith (1990)

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993)

Church of Lukumi v. Hialeah (1993)

Boerne v. Flores (1997)

Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente

União do Vegetal (2006)

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010)

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014)

Holt v. Hobbs (2015)

Trinity Lutheran Church of

Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (2017)

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado

Civil Rights Commission (2018)

Government Regulation of Religious Organizations

Walz v. Tax Commission (1970)

Larson v. Valente (1982)

Bob Jones University v. United

States (1983)

Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos (1987)

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School

v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2012)

Religion and Politics

National Conference of Catholic

Bishops on Religion and Politics

National Council of Churches on Religion and Politics

National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council on Religion

and Politics

Anna Greenberg, The Church and the

Revitalization of Politics and Community

Marvin McMickle, Black Preacher/Politicians

God and Country: Cultural


Robert N. Bellah, Civil Religion in America

John F. Wilson, The Civil Religion Proposal as a

Revitalization Movement in American Culture


Suggestions for Further Reading


View More



John F. Wilson is Collord Professor of Religion, Emeritus at Princeton University, where he directed the Project on Church and State. He is the author of Religion and the American Nation and Public Religion in American Culture, and served as general editor of Church and State in America: A Bibliographical Guide.

Donald L. Drakeman is Distinguished Research Professor in the Program on Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and a Fellow of the Centre for Health Leadership at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Church, State and Original Intent and ChurchState Constitutional Issues.


As a reader on church–state questions in American history, the Wilson and Drakeman volume is a classic. With an expansive vision of how the spiritual and temporal realms have been variously conceived in Western Christianity, the editors bring a panoramic perspective to the American story. That broader intellectual scaffolding makes their coverage of specific church-state conflicts particularly substantial and illuminating. Theirs is a stellar introduction to the complex interactions of religion, politics, and law in American life. 

Leigh E. Schmidt, Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University, St. Louis

This is an outstanding collection, combining cogently selected and arranged historical materials with insightful and engaging overall and chapter introductions. An invaluable resource for scholars, teachers, students, and anyone interested in the fascinating topic of church and state in the American context.

Steven Smith, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego

Church and State in American History, 4th ed., edited by two astute scholars of religion in American public life, is an invaluable guide and resource for those seeking to understand the troubled relations between religion and the civil state in American history, from the earliest colonial settlements to the present. Drawing from theological, political, and legal sources, it introduces readers to key controversies, arguments, and documents that have shaped church–state debate in America. This volume, with its prudently selected and edited documents and insightful commentary, is highly recommended for both classroom and reference use.

Daniel L. Dreisbach, American University

This book stands apart from the numerous narrative histories on church and state due to its thoughtful selection of primary and secondary sources, its historical approach, and its chronological comprehensiveness. There is no better reader out there for investigating the history of church and state in the American experience.

J. David Holcomb, Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor