REL 330

Religious Freedom in the United States

Should American religious history be told as story of increasing diversity and freedom? This course surveys the changing meanings of religious freedom in the United States from the early nation to the present day. Students consider key primary sources--founding documents, court cases, political cartoons, accusations, and apologetics--and weigh these alongside the arguments of scholars in religious studies. These include historian William Hutchinson, who argues that pluralism in the United States is an ongoing legacy of the nation's founders, as well as law professor Winifred Fallers Sullivan, who contends that the structures intended to protect religious expression have made religious freedom a practical impossibility. Students develop their own arguments in this debate through a research project that analyzes a historical or contemporary controversy over religious freedom.