Religious Freedom in U.S. History

Spring 2017
TH 1:30pm - 3:20pm
Area III
Permission Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

Religious freedom is often affirmed as a founding principle of the United States. A familiar narrative of progress charts the founders’ original goal of ensuring liberty for competing Protestant denominations through the eventual inclusion of Jews, Catholics, and, at least ideally, those who practice any of the world’s religions. Without entirely unseating that narrative, this course aims to complicate it by interrogating the cultural biases, exclusions, and limitations as well as apparent successes of religious freedom through the course of U.S. history. Primary and secondary source readings draw attention to competing discourses of religious freedom as they have developed over time, allowing us to chart the shifting meanings of this ideal in American culture. Along the way we will address topics such as the historical formations of secularism, the history of First Amendment jurisprudence, the struggles of religious minorities, debates over school prayer and gay marriage, and the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.

Background Expected: 

Some background in U.S. history or law is helpful. 

Course Requirements: 

Approx. 200 pages of reading/week; participation in seminar discussions; weekly online forum; final research paper.

Basis of Evaluation: 

Participation-20% of grade, online forum-20%, final paper-60%.