Defining Documents in World History: Religious Freedom & Religious Persecution

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As divisive as it can be, religion is sacred to millions of people, and they dearly hold their freedom to practice their religion of choice. Throughout the history of the United States, freedom of religion has been contentious, from persecution in colonial times to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which separated church and state and guaranteed numerous personal liberties, including freedom of religion.

Even after enacting the First Amendment, however, religious persecution continued to some degree in the early days of the nation, such as clashes between Protestants and Mormons, and the mass re-education and assimilation of Native American children. Throughout the years, various Supreme Court cases have clarified the boundaries of the First Amendment. Even in recent times, the First Amendment has been evoked in order to overturn prohibitive policies, such as President Donald Trump’s 2017 travel bans against Muslim-majority nations.

These volumes explore the development of religious rights in the United States from the country’s founding to present. Documents examined include charters, constitutions, legislative debates, political speeches, historical accounts, court cases, disputes involving church and state, and more.

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