The Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Barringer Gordon teaches and writes on American religious and constitutional history. She is the author of The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (2002) and The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (2010). She is currently at work on a book entitled "Freedom's Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776-1876." She is particularly interested in the legal history of religion and religious peoples in America, with a special focus on the relationship of politics and law to belief and practice in American life. In the most religiously diverse country on earth, freedom of religion has been central, and controversial, across American history.
This lecture studies the political and religious climate in the build-up to disestablishment in Virginia in 1785. It argues that religious groups were crucial to the debate, and to the ways that religious freedom was interpreted in Virginia and the United States, especially but not only before the Civil War.