A History of Faith

A History of Faith and a Wall of Division in America

The tensions of religious involvement in the public square, what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the wall separating church and state, is not new — in fact, it precedes the establishment of the republic by centuries. The first settlers in the New World were religious folk fleeing religious oppression in Europe, whether from the Spanish Inquisition to the Catholic–Protestant conflicts to the battles over what a true Christian Protestant faith should be. So the 1st Amendment, in the areas of our focus, prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion or abridging the freedom of speech.

The constitutional imperatives are vague and for over two centuries the question of what role religion plays in American politics and policy-making has shifted. Yet we cannot imagine the United States without religious leaders speaking out, sometimes for good and sometimes doing great harm.  

Today, there are truly no issues about which religious voices cannot be heard — from the moment of conception to the moment of death, from domestic to international affairs, and from the most local debate over schools and who should live in the neighborhood to war and peace and global responsibility.  

This session will help ground us in the history and help us begin addressing areas of contemporary conflict where religious leaders and denominations have taken strong stands.


This is an interactive session, better learned with colleagues, friends and/or congregants. Please stop at each PAUSE and participate in the activity.  Then hit play and continue the video.