Religion in American History and Politics

HIST 595/HUMA 595: Religion in American History and Politics
University of New Hampshire at Manchester
Fall 2012

Course Dates: 28 Aug-11 Dec.
Class Meetings: Weds, 6-9 pm
Instructor: Prof. J Parr


Course Description: This course exams the role of religion in United States Politics from the Revolution to the current day. Topics will include examinations of the religious proclivities of the Founding Fathers and how it impacted the writing of the US Constitution. It will examine the rise of Christian evangelism, beginning in the nineteenth century and the role evangelism played in abolition, temperance, the rise of 20th-century social conservativism and other key theo-political movements in US History.

Please Note: Religion and politics have a way of bringing out powerful opinions, particularly during an election year. We will cover some topics in class that may be controversial to at least some of you. The inclusion of these topics in class is purely for their scholarly examination. Covering the topics in class should not be seen as an endorsement of a particular political or religious belief, either by the instructor or UNH-M. We are absolutely all entitled to our own religious and political beliefs, regardless of what they are. You are expected to learn about these different ideas, and to be able to explain what they are, but you are not, in any way, obligated to agree with them. All I ask is that we are respectful of each other.

Required Readings:The books are available through the UNH-M Bookstore, or online vendors like Amazon. Many of them also have electronic versions available for e-Readers, like Kindle or Nook. If you buy them online, please make sure that you purchase the correct editions.

Vincent Carretta, ed., Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings (Penguin Books). ISBN: 978-0140424300

Frank Lambert, Religion in American Politics: a Short History (Princeton). ISBN: 978-0691146133

David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (Oxford). ISBN: 978-0195300925

Jeffrey P. Morgan, The Scopes Trial (Bedford/St. Martin). ISBN: 978-0312249199

George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford). ISBN: 978-0195300475

Edward E. Curtis, IV. Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975. University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 978-0807857717.

Carson, Shepard and Young, eds, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (Grand Central Publishing). ISBN: 978-0446678094

Thomas Jefferson, The Thomas Jefferson Bible (Empire Books). ISBN: 978-1619492547

Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of American Faith (Free Press). ISBN: 978-1451699685


Follow this timetable and come to class having read the chapter or pages indicated for that day.


Date Topic Reading and Assignments
Weds. 8/29 Introduction Reading:

Begin reading Holmes for class on 9/12.


Weds. 9/5 Founding the Republic


In-Class Writing Exercise


Lambert, Intro. and Ch. 1


Weds. 9/12 Faith and the Founding Fathers


In-Class Writing Exercise


Holmes due (entire)


This is your first opportunity to write one of your short papers.

Weds. 9/19 Mr. Jefferson’s Bible


In-Class Primary Source Exercise.


Thomas Jefferson, The Thomas Jefferson Bible (entire) due.

This is your second chance to write one of your 3 short papers.


Weds. 9/26 The Problem of Elusive Protestant Unity


In-Class Writing Exercise


Lambert, Ch. 2

Weds. 10/3 Religion and Abolition


In-Class Primary Source Exercise


Carretta/Wheatley, Intro., Poems on Various Subjects,” and “Letters;“ begin reading Morgan, The Scopes Trial


Weds. 10/10 Protestantism and The Social Gospel


In-Class Writing Exercise


Lambert, Ch. 3; Marsden, pp. 11-101.


Weds. 10/17 Faith and Science


In-Class Writing Exercise


Lambert, Ch. 4; Marsden, pp. 102-138


Weds. 10/24 The Scopes Trial


In-Class Primary Source Exercise


Morgan, The Scopes Trial (entire)



This is your third chance to write one of your three short papers.


Weds. 10/31 Cold War


Watching Good Night and Good Luck in class.



Lambert, Ch. 5


Weds. 11/7 Civil Rights: MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference


In-Class Primary Source Exercise


Lambert, Ch. 6; Carson, Shepard and Young, eds, A Call to Conscience (entire)



This is your fourth chance to write one of your three short papers.

Weds. 11/14 Civil Rights: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam


Watching Malcolm X in class.


Guest Speaker: Nadim Ali will be joining us via Skype.


Curtis, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam (entire)



This is your fifth chance to write one of your three short papers.


Weds. 11/22 No Class Meeting Happy Thanksgiving!


Weds. 11/28 Ronald Reagan and the Religious Right


In-Class Writing Exercise



       Lambert, Ch. 7.


Weds. 12/5 Mormonism and Modern Politics


In-Class Writing Exercise


Guest Speaker: Joanna Brooks will be joining us via Skype to discuss her book.


Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl



This is your sixth and final chance to write one of your three short papers.


Weds. 12/11 A Religious Left?

In-Class Writing Exercise


Lambert, Ch. 8


Assignment Descriptions:

Participation: Classes will be interactive and involve both lecture and discussion. You are expected to come prepared and to participate in each class meeting. Please bring both your textbook and your document reader to class each day.

Primary Source Exercises: In order to give students taste of being historian, we will conduct a series of primary source exercises in class. The dates are indicated on the syllabus. You will have about 45 minutes or so to discuss the sources amongst yourselves and then we will reconvene and discuss the sources as a class and what they tell us about the topic at hand.

 In-Class Writing Exercises: Periodically, you will receive a prompt that relates to one of the main themes from the module’s topic. You will have about 15-20 minutes to write a short response (about a ½-1 page), and we will discuss responses in class. You will hand these in at the end of class and they will be graded check (satisfactory), check-minutes (unsatisfactory) or zero (not submitted). These responses cannot be made up in the event of a missed class, but one low score will be dropped. In most cases, they will occur near the beginning of class, so it is important to be on time. You may use your books for this assignment.


Short Papers: You will write three short 2-3 page essays that respond to one of the full books we read in class. Papers are due at the beginning of class, on the dates indicated in the schedule below. The guidelines for these papers will be distributed in class and via email. Papers must be no shorter than one full page and no longer than two. (Note: In fairness to all students, I will not consider any thing written beyond the 3 pages in determining your paper grades.) They should be double-spaced with 12 pt font and no larger than 1.25-inch margins. Students may only use the assigned readings and lecture notes in completing this assignment. No outside sources may be used. Any material from the books, lecture notes, etc that you quote or paraphrase must be properly cited using a recognized format (i.e. Chicago, MLA, APA). In general, you should try to limit block quotes or paraphrasing – I want to read what you think. If you have any questions about citation, please contact me before submitting your paper.


The assignments for this course will be weighted as follows:

Participation 15%
In-Class Primary Source Exercises 25% (total)
In-Class Writing Exercises 15% (total)
Short Paper 1 15%
Short Paper 2 15%
Short Paper 3 15%



Standard Grade Scale:*




A 95-100 4.0
A- 90-94 3.67
Good B+ 87-89 3.33
B 84-86 3.0
B- 80-83 2.67
Satisfactory C+ 77-79 2.33
C 74-76 2.0
C- 70-73 1.67
Poor D+ 67-69 1.33
D 64-66 1.0
D- 60-63 0.67
Fail F Below 60 No Credit



*Please see the course rubric for an explanation the criteria for A work, B work, etc. You should also consult the catalog or see your adviser for any minimum grade requirements for majors, minors, or general core courses at UNMH. Most institutions will not accept anything below a C for transfer credit.

Class Expectations:

Books: Students are responsible for obtaining their books and other materials in a timely manner. Not obtaining the books will not be grounds for a waiver of the late assignment policy. If you purchase used copies of books, please be sure to plan enough time for them to arrive. I highly recommend giving yourself the full week to complete your reading each module.

Computer Problems and Saving Work: Computer problems do happen, and often at the least convenient time possible. As such, it is highly recommended that you create and save back up files for every piece of work you complete for this class. Computer issues will not be accepted as an excuse for late work. Saving duplicate copies of your work to an external source, such as a flash drive, will ensure that you do not lose your hard work. Alternatively, you can create a free account on a service like Dropbox or Skydrive, so that you can access your papers from anywhere, in the event of computer meltdown. (Make sure that you do not save your work to a public file.)

Technology Use: Texting in class is not permitted. Cell phones must remain off for the duration of class. You may use your laptop or a tablet to take notes, but please refrain from surfing the web during class. Inappropriate texting and web surfing is distracting to the other students. Please note: You may not make video or audio recordings of class without obtaining the written permission of the instructor beforehand. The instructor reserves the right to deny recording requests. If permission is granted, the recordings are only for personal use. They may not be distributed and must be destroyed at the end of the course.

Paper Submission and Late Assignment Policy: Students are responsible for making sure they understand all expectations and keep track of deadlines for all assignments. Students are responsible for knowing and adhering to the assignment schedule outlined in the syllabus below. Each student may have one (and only) one 24-hour grace period over the semester for written work only on all assignments. If you are invoking your grace period on another assignment, you must email me before the assignment’s due date to let me know. The assignment should then be submitted no later than 24 hours after the original due date. Late papers will be docked 1/3 grade per day late for up to 3 days after the original deadline, after which the assignment can no longer be submitted for credit. Incompletes are only granted under extraordinary circumstances.

Classroom Citizenship: The classroom is a professional environment. Uncivil conduct toward other students or the instructor will not be tolerated. Please make sure that you’re familiar with the code of conduct. I do not expect any problems.

Communication: I respond to all messages within 24 hours of receipt, except those received after 5 PM on Friday, which will receive a response within 48 hours. Please allow me sufficient time to respond before emailing me again. Due to privacy rules, please note that I can only respond to e-mails from your university email account. Emails from a private account may not receive a reply. When you send me an email, please make sure that you include a clear subject as well as your name and which class you are in.


Grades: Please allow a week for me to grade paper assignments. As a general rule, grades are only changed in the event of a mathematical error. When graded assignments are returned, please take the time to read your feedback before emailing me with questions or concerns about grades. If you still have concerns about your grade after reading your feedback, please write me a memo, which includes one paragraph-length response that directly addresses each of the concerns raised by your feedback, explaining why it merits a re-grade. I will take your concerns seriously, but there are no guarantees that your grade will be changed, and all decisions are final. Please note: I can only assign grades based on the quality of the final product. If you are unclear on the expectations for an assignment, it is your responsibility to ask me for clarification in advance of the assignment’s deadline. I cannot take effort, “acts of computer” or life situations into consideration, as it would be unethical for me to do so. You should bring any concerns about your grade to my attention within a week of receiving the graded paper back. Queries made thereafter will not be entertained.

Academic Honesty: is a core value and one I take very seriously. We all need to do our utmost to protect the reputation and integrity of the degree that you are working hard to earn. Students are expected to submit only their own work and it may not be work that has been recycled from another course. I prefer to help students avoid problems. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, will result in your failure for the course and potentially, in further disciplinary action by the University. Please do not cheat or plagiarize.


Accommodations: The University of New Hampshire at Manchester is committed to providing students with disabilities with a learning experience which assures them of equal access to all programs and facilities of the University, which makes all reasonable academic aids and adjustments for their disabilities and provides them with maximum independence and the full range of participation in all areas of life at UNH Manchester. I encourage students with accommodation letters to make an appointment with me to discuss their needs. Accommodations can only be granted with a letter from the Academic Services Office. Students who think that they may need accommodations should contact the Academic Services Office at (603) 641-4170 or email Disability Services Coordinator Joy Breeden at