The Myth of American Religious Freedom, by David Sehat

In 1859, an 11-year-old Catholic boy, Thomas Whall, refused to recite the Ten Commandments from the King James Bible in a public school. McLaurin Cooke, an assistant principal, whipped Whall's hands with a rattan rod for 30 minutes. With his hands bleeding and swollen, the boy finally gave in. Police arrested Cooke, but a court dismissed charges of assault and battery.

For David Sehat, the torture of Thomas Whall is an especially glaring example of a larger historical reality. In The Myth of American Religious Freedom, Sehat argues that the early American republic created a Protestant Christian "moral establishment" that not only persecuted Catholics, Jews and Mormons but also reified white supremacy, patriarchal authority and corporate control.

 

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