Professor Postel on the Past and Present of American Tolerance, Intolerance

Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Photo of Charles Postel in front of a world map

RELIGION AND POLITICS -- Charles Postel, associate professor of History at San Francisco State University, writes an opinion piece exploring a historical perspective on religious prejudice in U.S. presidential campaigns.

“[2016], of course, is not the first electoral campaign in which partisans have exploited religious prejudice. In the late nineteenth century, Catholics, much as today’s Muslims do, often bore the brunt of intolerance and xenophobia. Anti-Catholic paranoia poured forth from Republican newspapers and Protestant pews,” Postel writes. “The ‘spread of Romanism,’ editors and ministers warned, threatened Christian civilization and American institutions, as a tide of immigrants washed ashore paupers and radicals with the attendant dangers of crime and political violence. In broad partisan terms, the Republican Party made use of such anti-Catholic messages to mobilize voters against the Democratic Party and its Catholic and immigrant constituencies.”