Harper Academic

Sacred Liberty

America's Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom

by Steven Waldman

On Sale: 05/07/2019

Price: $28.99

Sacred Liberty

Listen to a Sample Enlarge Book Cover

Sacred Liberty

America's Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom

by Steven Waldman

On Sale: 05/07/2019


Price: $28.99

About the Book

Sacred Liberty offers a dramatic, sweeping survey of how America built a unique model of religious freedom, perhaps the nation’s “greatest invention.” Steven Waldman, the bestselling author of Founding Faith, shows how early ideas about religious liberty were tested and refined amidst the brutal persecution of Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Quakers, African slaves, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. American leaders drove religious freedom forward--figures like James Madison, George Washington, the World War II presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) and even George W. Bush.  But the biggest heroes were the regular Americans – people like Mary Dyer, Marie Barnett and W.D. Mohammed -- who risked their lives or reputations by demanding to practice their faiths freely. 

Just as the documentary Eyes on the Prize captured the rich drama of the civil rights movement, Sacred Liberty brings to life the remarkable story of how America became one of the few nations in world history that has religious freedom, diversity and high levels of piety at the same time. Finally, Sacred Liberty provides a roadmap for how, in the face of modern threats to religious freedom, this great achievement can be preserved.

Critical Praise

“Religious freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment, is central to America’s identity. Waldman shows how remarkable that is, and how tenuous.” - New York Times

“A powerful account of American religion since the colonial period...This insightful study is grounds for guarded optimism. It shows that the advance of decency has been steady, heartening—and fragile.” - The Economist

“Without freedom of conscience the whole history of the nation--and world--might be very different. We are lucky that Waldman has written this compelling study of the most essential breakthrough of modernity: the right to believe, or not, as one wishes. A great book about a monumental issue.” - Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Soul of America

“This is an important and fascinating book full of riveting stories, provocative insights, inspiring heroes, and some serious warnings. The American model of religious freedom should be the envy of the world.  But if we don’t understand how we made this great ‘invention,’ we could easily squander the achievement.” - Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and God: A Human History

“Americans take for granted that religious liberty is one of the country’s founding principles. Sacred Liberty provides the vivid, detailed, little-known stories of the people who first defended that principle and have continued to re-shape and revive it in dramatically changing circumstances. Surprising, instructive, very timely, and wise.” - James Fallows, author of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America

“Steven Waldman has given us an extraordinarily readable journey through a thorny landscape: America’s struggle to get religious liberty right. Agree or not with all of his conclusions, you cannot ignore the importance of his thesis that religious freedom must be a level ground for all sincerely held religious beliefs.” - Craig L. Parshall, conservative First Amendment attorney and bestselling author

“Highly accessible. . . . A fascinating look at an important piece of history. . . .  superb, engrossing.” - Booklist (starred review)

“Reading Steven Waldman’s fine new book, Sacred Liberty, has been good for my soul, in that it helps me keep the issues of religious freedom in proper perspective…The truth is that his book speaks to the evangelical soul in general [and] presents fresh models for addressing complex religious freedom challenges.” - Christianity Today

“This is what we need to know about the history of religious freedom in America. It is often an uncomfortable story, frequently infuriating, sometimes inspiring, consistently challenging. Waldman draws the reader into this epic struggle with a vivid and engaging narrative.” - Ingrid Mattson, Former Head of the Islamic Society of North America

“At a moment of renewed animus against minority faiths, Steven Waldman provides both a stirring defense of religious freedom and a warning against the forces that continue to threaten it. His book is a tour de force, crafted with an historian’s eye and a journalist’s flair.” - Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of History of Education, University of Pennsylvania

“Well-researched and eye-opening. This compelling book is a must read for anyone whose life is impacted by the search and the fight for religious freedom. And that’s all of us whether we know it or not; whether we follow a religion or we don’t.” - Sylviane A.  Diouf, author of Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas

“Waldman’s treatment of the religious intolerance that Catholics endured in the United States is especially interesting. It’s also instructive now that many Catholics are making common cause on this issue alongside the spiritual heirs of the very Protestants who recently saw Catholics as unworthy of equal treatment.” - David Gibson, Director of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University

“General readers of American history will find much to enjoy in Waldman’s exploration of the evolution of American religious freedoms.” - Publishers Weekly

“An energetic history surveys America’s commitments to religious liberty from the 17th century to the present. . . . An informative account.” - Kirkus Review

“Waldman offers a sweeping overview of how the United States built a unique model of ‘religious freedom’...Waldman can place current debates about religious liberty into sociopolitical and historical perspective.” - The Humanist

Sacred Liberty details America’s long and continuing struggle to achieve true religious freedom for all people.” - Beliefnet

“Steven Waldman has made a permanent impact on religious discourse.” - State of Belief Radio

“A comprehensive history of America’s tradition of religious freedom.” - New York Magazine

“Waldman outlines countless attacks on people of faith throughout the country’s history and interreligious tension that persists to this day. . . . Despite tough conclusions like this, Waldman isn’t arguing that America’s religious freedom laws are worthless. Instead, [he] helps people see why this is worth fighting for.” - Deseret News

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062743145
  • ISBN 10: 0062743147
  • Imprint: HarperOne
  • On Sale: 05/07/2019
  • Trimsize: 6.000 in (w) x 9.000 in (h) x 1.290 in (d)
  • Pages: 416
  • List Price: $28.99
  • BISAC1 : RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State
  • BISAC2 : HISTORY / United States / 21st Century
  • BISAC3 : POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Cultural Policy