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Production of American Religious FreedomThe Production of American Religious Freedom$
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Finbarr Curtis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479882113

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479882113.001.0001

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The Fundamental Faith of Every True American

The Fundamental Faith of Every True American

Al Smith and Loyalty

Chapter:
(p.87) 5 The Fundamental Faith of Every True American
Source:
Production of American Religious Freedom
Author(s):

Finbarr Curtis

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479882113.003.0006

As the first Catholic nominee of a major party, Al Smith faced suspicions that there was something intrinsically anti-American about allegiance to a foreign Pope. Even some of Smith’s supporters expressed concerns that Catholicism’s emphasis on obedience to clerical rule inculcated illiberal habits of passivity and deference to institutional authority. Smith responded that anti-Catholicism violated the separation of church and state. Challenging the equation of Protestant voluntarism and American citizenship, Smith defended his urban, working-class, Tammanyite, and Catholic loyalties. In his practical assessment, arguments for individual freedom that excluded Catholics advanced the interests of a Protestant majority. The logic of his argument for the separation of church and state held that secularism was not only a formal legal requirement for public institutions but was also an ethos that required American citizens to respect the religious identities of others. By allowing Smith to condemn all religious criticism as bigotry, his rhetoric provided a vehicle for an identity politics that protected the collective loyalties of religious minorities.

Keywords:   anti-Catholicism, ethnicity, loyalty, immigration, Tammany Hall

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