As divisive as it can be, religion is sacred to millions of people, and they hold dearly to their freedom to practice their religion of choice. Throughout history, instances of both the toleration of other faiths and the persecution of religious minorities have taken place.
In some traditions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, religion was not the individual and personal matter it became under the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, but rather was something that permeated all aspects of society. And while scholars have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam, or the Crusades in Christendom), one can also look at important instances of peace, equality, and reconciliation. At its heart, freedom of religion is both freedom from persecution and the liberty to practice one’s faith.
In the United States, freedom of religion has long been contentious, from persecution in colonial times to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which separated church and state and guaranteed certain personal liberties, including freedom of religion. Even after the Constitution took hold, however, religious persecution continued to some degree over the history of the nation, such as clashes between established Protestant communities and Catholic immigrants from Europe, serious disagreements over the role of faith in the public sphere, and anti-Muslim sentiments in the wake of 9/11.
Notable and shocking examples of persecution of religious minorities have taken place across the globe in the 20th and 21st centuries. These include the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915, the persecution of Jews in Europe in the Holocaust, and campaigns by government regimes against religious minorities in China, Iraq, and Myanmar (Burma), among others.
Organized by region of the world, these volumes explore religious freedom and persecution across the ages. Primary source documents examined include edicts, decrees, proclamations, religious canons, treaties, letters, constitutions, United Nations declarations, key historical accounts, landmark court cases, and more.
The documents examined in this set include:
The Middle East
The Revolt of the Maccabees and Judean Independence (141 B.C.E.)
The Pact of Umar: Peace Accord to the Christians of Syria (635)
Report on Armenian Genocide (1915)
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948)
The Laws of Manu, Chapter 1 (100 B.C.E.)
Constitution of Tibet (1963)
Report on International Religious Freedom: China—Xinjiang (2022)
The Crusaders in Mainz, Germany (1096)
Ninety-Five Theses (Luther, 1517)
French Law on Conspicuous Religious Symbols in Schools (2004)
Letter Regarding the Plight of German Jews (1940)
Telegram Confirming Mass Executions of Jews in Poland (1943)
Agreement and Charter for International Conference on Military Trials (1945)
Roger Williams—“The Bloudy Tenent”
First Draft of First Amendment Rights (1789)
"Spiritual Freedom" (1830)
Engle v. Vitale (ends mandatory school prayer, 1962)
Ten Commandments Cases (Van Orden v. Perry; McCreary v. ACLU)
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (allows coach to pray at 50-yard line, 2022)
About the Series
The Defining Documents series provides in-depth commentary and analysis on the most important primary source documents in the United States and the world. The Defining Documents series is perfect for students, those researching a particular era, or anyone interested in world history. Visit www.salempress.com for more information about additional titles in this series.
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