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Can religious organizations use American trademark law to assert control over the name of a religion? Further, what is the relationship between a religious organization as guarantor of fundamental spiritual truths and the signs by which it is known? To answer these questions, this article traces the history and role of trademarks in American religion with a focus on Christian Science's faith-branding strategy. This narrative explores the religious use of trademarks as an emergent strategy in the early twentieth century to manage religious practice through brand management and trademark law. Using a combination of archival research and legal analysis, this article explores legal debates about the place of trademarks in American religion followed by a close analysis of the Church of Christ, Scientist—an American religious organization “discovered and founded” by Mary Baker Eddy in the late nineteenth century—which is exemplary in the way it strategically utilized branding and marking strategies as a means of distinguishing Christian Science within a diverse marketplace of competing turn-of-the-century spiritual practices. This article argues that religious trademarks, while controversial, can be used to secure legal authority over licensed Churches, teachings, and materials in lieu of established Church hierarchy. This article interrogates the nature and origins of religious trademark strategies to demonstrate that religious organizations like the Church of Christ, Scientist could operate as particularly savvy users of the law to establish spiritual authority via control of the religious name.
This article addresses a pervasive historiographic assumption about the supremacy of the King James Bible in British North America by proposing that a process we call the “pluralization of Scriptures” forced colonial Protestants to square their belief in “the Bible” with the undeniable reality of many “bibles.” While the KJV remained dominant among anglophone Protestant populations, by the early eighteenth century some heirs of New England Puritanism were challenging its adequacy and pushing for improved translations of key passages, as members of the clerical intelligentsia became immersed in cutting-edge textual and historical scholarship. Also, during the eighteenth century, non-English cultures of biblicism with their own religious print markets formed in the middle colonies, most importantly among diasporic communities of German Protestants, who brought the Luther Bible to America, and diverse “heterodox” Bibles associated with radical Pietist groups. This essay contends that, well before the American Revolution, the advent of Higher Criticism in American seminaries, and the first wave of English-language Bible production in the early republic, Scripture had ceased to be a static, monolithic entity. A considerable number of alternative translations and commentary traditions in a variety of different languages came to co-exist and, at some points, also interact with each other. Moreover, we argue that competing translations, even of passages speaking to core Christian doctrines, were inextricably bound up with some of the most significant controversies among colonial Protestants, such as the debate over the doctrine of universal salvation, our main case study.
Clergy sexual violence in immigrant communities is an understudied dimension of the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic church. Yet records suggest that bishops regularly treated immigrant-serving parishes as dumping grounds for serially abusive clergy. There, evidence suggests, abusers targeted minors from poor, vulnerable, and undocumented families, silencing victims with threats of deportation and further violence. How did legal status intersect with structures of state and ecclesial power and with social hierarchies of visibility in situations of clergy abuse? Centering the case of Msgr. Peter E. Garcia, a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who abused at least twenty boys between 1966 and 1987, this article examines archival evidence from unsealed clergy personnel files to interrogate the complex politics of documentation in the case. It attends to the relationship between three interwoven forms of (un)documentation: first, the precarious legal and social status of victims; second, the silences, redactions, and euphemisms that characterize church records containing these accounts; and third, the spatial undocumentation at work in the use of migrant parishes as clergy dumping grounds. It demonstrates how a post–Vatican II theological and pastoral imagination of intimacy with the poor, refracted through prisms of state, ecclesial, and clerical dominance, helped to create conditions for the production of invisible victims. The erasure accomplished through the overlapping forms of undocumentation in the Garcia case, it argues, can help to account for the absence of such stories from the broader narrative of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the United States.
Scholars of religion and medicine have discussed the rise of scientific birthing while also capturing the significance of religion among Black midwives in the American South. Yet they have seldom discussed the place of Protestantism and African American Protestantism in state-sponsored midwifery programs for Black women in the twentieth century. This essay focuses on the 1945–1946 Leon County “Plan for Improving the Midwife Service Program” in North Florida to argue how state health workers promoted Black religion to determine the moral fitness of Black women to practice midwifery in their communities. Black religion was incorporated into the regulatory scheme of the health state. Using primary documents from state archives, this paper adds to the history of African American religion and medicine by demonstrating that African American Protestantism was integral to the state health apparatus and consequently used to legitimate the authority of modern obstetrics for Black communities in the Depression and World War II periods.
This article traces the contemporary history of the eucharistic host, arguing that the materiality of modern Catholicism offers a distinct set of insights into the ways in which the Catholic Church has negotiated, resisted, and accommodated the modern world. Drawing on archival work, writings from a range of early twentieth-century Catholic journals, and advertising campaigns for altar bread, I show how shifting theological convictions about the Eucharist transformed both the form of altar bread as well as how and by whom it was made. Long before the Second Vatican Council, efforts to increase lay reception of communion as a strategy to mobilize Catholics against modernity had the effect of increasing demand for the bread on which it depended. After the Council, new convictions about the need for more intelligible liturgical symbols were accompanied by demands for a new kind of bread. Taken together, I argue that these factors unwittingly contributed to the creation of a new economy of host production. While the relationship between the church and the modern world remains one of the most enduring tensions in modern Catholicism in the wake of Vatican II, I show how both before and after the Council, the Catholic Church was deeply enmeshed in and dependent upon that world to achieve its ends.