Religion and the State: The Making and Testing of an American Tradition

Religion and the State: The Making and Testing of an American Tradition

Religion and the State: The Making and Testing of an American Tradition

Religion and the State: The Making and Testing of an American Tradition

Excerpt

The history of church and state relations is a subject on which many treatises have been written by eminent scholars; these books have, however, been little read except by specialists, chiefly, perhaps, by students of the European Middle Ages. To most Americans of, let us say, forty years ago, the subject seemed to have little relation to current problems. Persons of moderate education could indeed recall more or less vaguely what they had read about such dramatic conflicts between spiritual and temporal authorities as those between the German Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII, and between Henry II of England and Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury. In the history of modern Europe, the textbooks had something to say about the Religious Wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; about the rule of cujus regio, ejus religio by which German princes were allowed to determine the publicly professed religion of their subjects; and about such comparatively recent happenings as the conflict between Revolutionary France and the Catholic Church, and the Roman question in nineteenth-century Italy.

As for our own American experience, intelligent schoolboys knew something of the Puritan church-state in Massachusetts, as well as the experiments in religious liberty by Lord Baltimore in Maryland, Roger Williams and his associates in Rhode Island, and William Penn in Pennsylvania. Such topics seemed to have their appropriate places in textbooks, although the issues involved were thought to be almost, if . . .

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