Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 May 2022
Protestants have played a role in shaping the political ideology of every major party in the United States and in formulating nearly every major public policy. Most American Protestants have believed that the US government should not create a religious establishment or endorse one religious denomination or sect to the exclusion of others; they have been suspicious of any religious organization’s attempt to control the minds or votes of its followers and impose its religious principles on others through public law; and they have also generally seen political activity as a moral enterprise, governed by broadly shared (Protestant-inspired) norms. These tenets of political behavior are so deeply engrained in the nation’s consciousness that their appeal has extended well beyond Protestant circles. But as uncontroversial as most of these tenets might seem to Americans today, their development was a contested part of the nation’s history.