Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law

By Anderson, R. Bentley | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2011 | Go to article overview
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Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law


Anderson, R. Bentley, The Catholic Historical Review


American Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law. By Fay Botham. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2008. Pp. xvi, 271. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-807-83318-6.)

In Almighty God Created the Race: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law, Fay Botham, adjunct professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, focuses on a rarely examined issue in American race matters: the intersection of religion, law, and interracial marriage. To what extent did Protestant or Catholic understanding of marriage influence secular law regarding this institution? In particular, how did the Catholic understanding of marriage as a sacrament and the Protestant notion that marriage was sacred but a state matter influence judicial decision making? Furthermore, what are the proper roles of the church and state in establishing marriage laws in this country?

Divided into six chapters, Almighty God begins with an examination of the 1948 California-based case Perez v. Lippold, which outlawed religious discrimination in marriage.The deciding vote in the state of California's Supreme Court decision was cast by a Christian Science jurist who agreed with the plaintiff's argument that antimiscegenation laws violated religious liberties. With the Perez case as a starting point, Botham then proceeds to examine the development of American marriage laws; the difference between Protestant and Catholic understandings of the institution of marriage; the theology of race; the Protestant influence on antimiscegenation law; and, finally, Southern Catholics'attitudes on race and marriage with analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia decision (1967), which outlawed racebased nuptials. Hers is an ambitious and wide-ranging investigation of American race-based marital attitudes and laws using primary source material as diverse as papal encyclicals, court decisions, clerical sermons and writings, secular newspapers, and religious journals as well as Holy Scripture.

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