About this Course
The first course explores the meaning and significance of the religious liberty principles of the First Amendment from our nation’s colonial and founding periods to the mid-20th century. Using primary source material, participants study the roots of religious freedom in colonial America, with special attention given to the Puritan Commonwealth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the radical experiment of “no establishment” and “free exercise” in Rhode Island. Despite the commitment to religious freedom on the federal level and in state constitutions, the United States remained a semi-established Protestant nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Protestants played a central role in movements for social reform and the establishment of educational institutions, including the common schools. At the same time, the 19th century in America was an era of virulent anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism in the wake of large waves of immigration. In the 20th century, growing religious diversity, secularization of society and the application of the First Amendment to the states through the 14th Amendment in the 1940s set the stage for U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have more fully separated church from state and redefined the free exercise of religion.
(plus travel & lodging during the on-site seminars in Washington D.C.)