Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America

Steven K. Green

in The Oxford Handbook of Church and State in the United States

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195326246
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America


The nineteenth century is tagged as the “forgotten century” for traditional reviews of American church–state relations. Most of the case books and historical studies of the church and state in America focus on the Puritan theocratic experiment in New England; the struggles of religious freedom in Virginia; the drafting of the First Amendment; and the cases of the twentieth century. This article hence focuses on this “forgotten century,” as it illuminates the tremendous ideological, cultural, and demographic changes in America. This period is marked by many factors and events that influenced church–state relations. Some of the many changes that took place during it were: the inclusion of religious free exercise in the First Amendment, which paved the way for religious experimentation and pluralism; the introduction of secularization, which separated church and state; and the introduction of an amoral law, which abolished its religious functions and focused on the economic demands of the time. In this article, particular attention is devoted to the three controversies that defined church–state relations during the nineteenth century. These are: the controversy over Protestant religious exercises in the nation's public schools and the issue of public funding of Catholic parochial schools; the government-sponsored Christianization of American Indians; and the government's attempt to eradicate Mormon polygamy.

Keywords: nineteenth century; America; church–state relations; religious free exercise; religious experimentation; religious pluralism; secularization; Protestant religious exercises; public schools

Article.  11241 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Politics and Law

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