Charles C. Haynes, Philip Hamburger and Cheryl Crazy Bull —
Religious Liberty in America: The Legacy of Church and State

At the center of our history of church and state is a troublesome irony. What began as an attempt to guarantee religious tolerance in the new world has at various times been commandeered by the most chauvinistic movements America has known. In spite of this, religious liberty has survived as an American ideal—one which we continue to test.

We live in a world of increasing religious pluralism—diversity beyond the imagining of our nation's founders—which suggests fresh nuance to the meaning of religious liberty. This much is clear: our modern conversation has few connections to the social, political, and religious impulses that led to the First Amendment.

Host Krista Tippett and her guests revisit the history and meaning of separation in thought-provoking and, at times, unsettling ways. Charles Haynes talks about his work in the American public school system—the arena in which our modern debates often center. Philip Hamburger describes his research into the surprising, and largely forgotten, origins of separation of church and state. And, Cheryl Crazy Bull speaks about the loss and reemergence of religious expression in tribal public life.

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Charles C. Haynes

is an author, educator, and director of the First Amendment Center's educational program in schools.

Philip Hamburger

is an author and John P. Wilson professor of law at the University of Chicago.

Cheryl Crazy Bull

is president of Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.

Selected Readings

Pledge of Allegiance

View the evolving versions of the recitation since its creation in 1892.

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists

Read the final letter sent in 1802 that contains the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state." Also, compare the draft version of the letter or view the actual image of the final letter.

Excerpt from a Sermon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

In the mid-19th century, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority took up the banner of church-state separation as a means to keep Catholics out of public life. They claimed that Catholics held an overriding allegiance to the Roman Church and its government by the pope. The lines of this sermon illustrate this prejudice.

Excerpt from a Ku Klux Klan Oath of Allegiance

Philip Hamburger references the KKK, in the early 20th century, as one of the most prominent anti-Catholic, pro-separation forces in America. An excerpt of this oath from that era is both racist and distinctly in favor of separation.

Featured Commentary

Questions Thoughtful People Should Ask Themselves

Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum

Chapter 2: The Educational Framework

What is the meaning of love — and what is the difference between sexuality and love?

What does justice require of me — and of my country?

When am I obligated to sacrifice my own good for that of someone else?

What are the deepest sources of joy in life?

How did the world begin?

What sense can we make of suffering and of death?

Is there progress in human affairs ? and if so why? Is there a God? And how do I know any of this?

About the Image

Patty Anton, an American who is a practicing Muslim, attends a rally in support of religious freedom in 2010 in New York City.

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I listened to this podcast on Aug. 3, 2014. I had learned in grade school about the history of some in the colonies wanting to escape from religious persecution by their country's promotion of a particular religious affirmation. It was explained that the first amendment was designed to avoid that in the new county of the United States of America. I have carried that appreciation with me through the years. It thus has offended me when some groups have tried in succeeding years to directly or covertly establish a religion for our country. However, I was surprised to learn that this in not a new issue but one that has been going on for the history of our country. I entered the active ministry and still today affirm my religious beliefs, but I refuse to take a position or enable anyone else to advocate anything resembling a unilateral or singular religious affirmation for me, my country, or indeed the world. We may, as Christians, espouse that God will one day bring about a world-wide worship of him. But until I see the heavenly hosts walking down my street, I will defend to my utmost effort each individual's right (both in a faith context and a constitutional one) to worship or not how they choose.

Thank you for the education this episode has provided me and indeed the entire effort of the ongoing program.

John Clarke