In recent years, controversies over abortion, school prayer, and religious cults have raised new questions about the delicate balance between church and state, between true believers and civic authority. John West shows that America’s Founders had already anticipated and answered such questions by carefully defining religion’s proper role in politics.
West contends that the Founders and their immediate successors encouraged religion to play a dynamic, positive role in politics. Examining Christian political activism from 1800 to 1835—in particular, evangelical challenges to Cherokee removal, the delivery of Sunday mail, dueling, and other practices evangelicals deemed inconsistent with the moral order—West adds enormously to our understanding of early American church-state conflict. His conclusions will be enlightening for anyone interested in the political role of religion in America’s past, evangelical religion in contemporary politics, and the current “culture wars.”