Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History

Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History

Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History

Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History

Synopsis

American narratives often celebrate the nation's rich heritage of religious freedom. There is, however, a less told and often ignored part of the story: the ways that intolerance and cultures of hate have manifested themselves within American religious history and culture.

In the first ever documentary survey of religious intolerance from the colonial era to the present, volume editors John Corrigan and Lynn S. Neal define religious intolerance and explore its history and manifestations, including hate speech, discrimination, incarceration, expulsion, and violence. Organized thematically, the volume combines the editors' discussion with more than 150 striking primary texts and pictures that document intolerance toward a variety of religious traditions. Moving from anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan propaganda to mob attacks on Mormons, the lynching of Leo Frank, the kidnapping of "cult" members, and many other episodes, the volume concludes with a chapter addressing the changing face of religious intolerance in the twenty-first century, with examples of how the problem continues to this day.

Excerpt

In March of 1942, the Jehovah’s Witnesses learned a difficult lesson in American history. Even though they were citizens with ties to Christianity, they were not welcome in the American religious landscape. In the midst of World War II, the Witnesses encountered hostility and suspicion, intolerance and violence, for their religiously based refusal to support the war and salute the flag. This perceived disloyalty to the United States combined with their very visible evangelistic techniques sparked intolerance in numerous towns and cities across the country, including Little Rock, Arkansas, Klamath Falls, Oregon, and West Jefferson, Ohio. Despite having won a recent Supreme Court case, Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), that protected their evangelistic endeavors, they were detained by police in West Jefferson, Ohio, for distributing literature and for preaching their gospel on street corners. According to the affidavit of Jehovah’s Witness J. E. Lowe, “When reminded that the Supreme Court had ruled in our favor, [Officer] Wolfe replied ‘We don’t care for the Supreme Court and the Constitution don’t apply here.’ ” Lowe’s affidavit describes the ensuing events and the accuracy of Wolfe’s statement rings eerily true.

On March 21 three car-loads of Witnesses returned to West Jeffer
son. Officer Wolfe was seen going in and out of different places where
men generally hang out in small towns. Then the town siren blew. A
crowd of men gathered in front of the barber shop immediately began
pushing the Witnesses and striking them. The five male members tried
vainly to protect themselves and their wives and children, but were so
greatly outnumbered that it was impossible. In their viciousness they
hit women members and knocked them down, one of them uncon
scious, and blacked their eyes. They were reminded that they were
fighting against Christians and taking the law into their own hands.

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