American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance

American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance

Peter Gottschalk

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1137278293

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the middle of the nineteenth century a group of political activists in New York City joined together to challenge a religious group they believed were hostile to the American values of liberty and freedom. Called the Know Nothings, they started riots during elections, tarred and feathered their political enemies, and barred men from employment based on their religion. The group that caused this uproar?: Irish and German Catholics―then known as the most villainous religious group in America, and widely believed to be loyal only to the Pope. It would take another hundred years before Catholics threw off these xenophobic accusations and joined the American mainstream. The idea that the United States is a stronghold of religious freedom is central to our identity as a nation―and utterly at odds with the historical record. In American Heretics, historian Peter Gottschalk traces the arc of American religious discrimination and shows that, far from the dominant protestant religions being kept in check by the separation between church and state, religious groups from Quakers to Judaism have been subjected to similar patterns of persecution. Today, many of these same religious groups that were once regarded as anti-thetical to American values are embraced as evidence of our strong religious heritage―giving hope to today's Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious groups now under fire.

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closets in order to enjoy Irish pride. Sure, New York has its parade and Chicagoans turn their river green for the day, but for Boston the parade is an annual exclamation point for an enduring embrace of Hibernian character. Irish Americans, including the Kennedy family, the Irish famine memorial off Boston Common, James Michael Curley, and the Irish Mob represent a critical cultural cornerstone for the city. Despite today’s positive association of Boston with the Irish, both before and after

territories, often relying on Sioux relationships to prosper. However, the rising tide of immigration into their lands—particularly spurred by prospectors attempting to join the 1849 California Gold Rush—prompted Plains Indians to resist. A few years later, some Sioux and other leaders signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which assured them reserved territories, including the religiously crucial Black Hills, if they forfeited claims to land elsewhere. The 1860s discovery of gold in Montana brought

neighbors. He went to the professional marketers Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke, who, in turn, hired recruiters to systematically canvas men’s fraternal orders and Protestant churches, earning four of the ten dollars from each of the new recruit’s membership dues. These “kleagles” particularly sought ministers to join, recognizing their publicity and recruiting value. Showings of The Birth of a Nation and other films attempted to quicken patriotic, racist, and nativist sentiments, while

threat. The antagonism went far enough that the fairly new American Civil Liberties Union cautioned officials against some of the measures. Local residents also organized. Members of the African American community and the Catholic Knights of Columbus fraternity created a citizen’s committee in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that was poised to warn of Klan activity. In Columbus, Ohio, black leaders reversed a tactic used by the Klan and advocated a boycott of Klan-owned shops, while in nearby Dayton,

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/mosque_madness_at_ground_zero _OQ34EB0MWS0lXuAnQau5uL (accessed May 4, 2013); Southern Poverty Law Center, “Anti-Muslim,” http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files /ideology/anti-muslim#.UYaBiytoQke (accessed May 4, 2013). 26. D. West, “A Mosque to Mock 9/11’s Victims and Families,” Washington Examiner, May 16, 2010, http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/32272 (accessed May 15, 2012). 27. Elliott, “How the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Fear Mongering

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