U.S. President Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that the First Amendment to the Constitution was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.”
It’s commonly asserted that the intellectual architecture underpinning Church-State separation and the First Amendment’s codification of religious freedom rested on a foundation of Protestant liberalism, coloured by the rationalist philosophy of the Enlightenment period.
But what if there’s more to the story? If we hold the magnifying glass a little closer, is it possible to examine the arc of religious freedom in colonial America and discover Catholic fingerprints?
In this episode, we aim to give a fair hearing to this idea.
Our guest is Dr. Michael Breidenbach, Associate Professor and Chair of History at Ave Maria University, and Senior Affiliate for Legal Humanities at the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania. Author of Our Dear-Bought Liberty: Catholics and Religious Toleration in Early America, Dr. Breidenbach is an historian of politics, religion, law and culture in early America and the Atlantic World.
Websites / resources referenced
Dr. Michael Breidenbach biography
Michael Breidenbach, Our Dear-Bought Liberty: Catholics and Religious Toleration in Early America (2021)
“Conciliarism” (definition courtesy of Catholic Culture)
George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore
Inter Caetera (Pope Alexander VI, 1493)
Constitution of the United States, First Amendment