An Introduction to This Exhibit

Religion has played a vital and controversial role in American life since the founding of the nation.  The separation of church and state in a sense defined America; the exact meaning of that separation in law and practice has been a subject of ongoing debate.  Religion has affected the outcome of elections since 1800 and helped determine long-term voting patterns.  It has motivated great social and political movements, such as abolition and prohibition, and helps explain the often missionary zeal of American foreign policy.  America changed old religions and spawned new ones, and these religions have changed America and the world.

Religion in America covers a broad ground. This exhibit presents it under three headings: Religion and Politics; Religion and American Law; and Religion and American Life. In addition, it will present collections of primary documents. The first of these, Religion in American History and Politics: 25 Core Documents, is posted. Through this collection of documents readers may trace central themes in the complex story of religion and politics in American history. We plan to add the following collections:

RAHP:  The Prophetic Voice (religious commentary on America’s problems)
RAHP:  Religious Liberty
RAHP:  Key Court Decisions
RAHP:  Religion and Science
RAHP:  Women’s Voices
RAHP:  Private Reflections

Our goal is to develop an exhibit and a library of documents that reflect the depth and rich variety of American religious experiences and the ways in which such experiences relate to other ongoing social and political developments. We hope the exhibit will open new pathways for investigating the course of American history—in the conviction that as we learn to better understand the past, we are better equipped to face and shape our civic future.

The Ashbrook Center is grateful to the Diehl Family Foundation, the William H. Donner Foundation, and Ambassador John L. Loeb for providing the funding that made this exhibit possible.

If you have any questions about this site, email us at is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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