History of American Religion:1600 to 2017

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When did the first Catholics arrive in America? When did Pentecostalism first develop? When was Jerry Falwell's church finally desegregated? When did Televangelist Oral Roberts announce that God would "call him home" if he did not raise USD $8 million? All of these and more listed here.

The 17th Century (1600 to 1699)

April 29, 1607

At Cape Henry, Virginia, the first Anglican (Episcopal) church in the American colonies was established.

June 21, 1607

America's first Protestant Episcopal parish was established in Jamestown, Virginia.

July 22, 1620

Under the leadership of John Robinson, English Separatists began to emigrate to North America - eventually, they came to be known as the Pilgrims.

September 16, 1620

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 Pilgrims aboard. The ship would arrive at Provincetown on November 21st and then at Plymouth on December 26th.

March 05, 1623

The Virginia colony enacted the first American temperance law.

September 06, 1628

Puritan colonists landed at Salem and started the Massachusetts Bay Colony

June 30, 1629

Samuel Skelton was elected the first pastor of Salem, Massachusetts. The church covenant created by Skelton made his congregation the first non-separating congregational Puritan Church in New England.

February 05, 1631

Roger Williams first arrived in North America. He would soon question the rigid religious policies in the Massachusetts colony, leading to his being banished to Rhode Island five years later. There he would create the first Baptist church in America.

May 18, 1631

The General Court of the Massachusetts issued the decree that "no man shall be admitted to the body politic but such as are members of some of the churches within the limits" of the colony.

March 25, 1634

The Roman Catholic Church made its first steps in North America when the colony ships "Dove" and "Ark" arrived in Maryland with 128 Catholic colonists. The members of this group had been chosen by Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore and the colony itself would be led by Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore's brother.

October 09, 1635

Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts. Williams had argued against civil punishments for religious crimes and, as a result of his expulsion from the colony, he founded the town of Providence and the new colony of Rhode Island, specifically as a place of refuge for those seeking religious freedom.

September 08, 1636

Harvard College (later University) was founded by the Massachusetts Puritans at New Towne. It was the first institution of higher learning established in North America and was originally created to train future ministers.

March 22, 1638

Religious dissident Anne Hutchinson was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as punishment for heresy.

June 21, 1639

American theologian Increase Mather was born.

September 01, 1646

The Cambridge Synod of Congregational Churches convened in Massachusetts, deciding upon the correct form of government which all Congregational Churches in New England would agree to follow.

April 21, 1649

The Maryland Assembly passed the Toleration Act, providing protection to Roman Catholics against Protestant harassment and discrimination, a problem which had been on the increase due to the growing power of Oliver Cromwell in England.

October 16, 1649

The colony of Maine passed legislation creating religious freedom for all citizens, but only on the condition that those of "contrary" religious beliefs behave "acceptably."

July 01, 1656

The first Quakers (Mary Fisher and Ann Austin) to arrive in Boston are arrested. Five weeks later they were deported back to England.

August 05, 1656

Eight Quakers arrived in Boston. They were immediately imprisoned by the Puritan authorities because Quakers were generally regarded as politically and religiously subversive.

March 24, 1664

Roger Williams was granted a charter to colonize Rhode Island.

May 27, 1664

At the age of 24, colonial theologian Increase Mather became the minister of Boston's Second (Congregational) Church. He would serve there until his death in 1723.

May 03, 1675

Massachusetts passed a law that required church doors to be locked during services - evidently to keep people from leaving before the long sermons were finished.

September 28, 1678

John Bunyan's famous book Pilgrim's Progress was published.

March 10, 1681

William Penn, an English Quaker, received a charter from Charles II which made him the sole proprietor of the colonial American territory of Pennsylvania.

May 11, 1682

After two years, two key laws were repealed by the General Court of Massachusetts: one which prohibited people from observing Christmas and another that set capital punishment for Quakers who returned to the colony after being banished.

August 30, 1682

William Penn sailed from England to established the colony of Pennsylvania.

June 23, 1683

William Penn, a Quaker and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, signed a famous treaty with the Indians of that region. This treaty was never broken by the Quakers.

February 29, 1692

The Salem Witch Trials began when Tituba, the female slave of the Reverend Samuel Parris, Sarah Goode, and Sarah Osborne were all arrested and accused of witchcraft.

March 01, 1692

The Salem Witch Trials in the Massachusetts colony were officially launched with the conviction of Tituba, the West Indian slave of Rev. Samuel Parris.

June 10, 1692

Bridget Bishop became the first of twenty people executed for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

October 03, 1692

In Massachusetts, Increase Mather published his "Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits," effectively ending the Salem Witch Trials which had begun earlier that year.

April 01, 1693

The four-day-old son of Cotton Mather died. Mather, who had written about the existence of demonic and spectral phenomena in the world, suspected that witchcraft might have been the cause of his first-born son's demise.

January 15, 1697

Citizens of Massachusetts spent the day fasting and repenting for their role in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

The 18th Century (1700 to 1799

May 07, 1700

Quaker leader William Penn began a series of monthly meetings for Blacks advocating emancipation from slavery.

October 05, 1703

Jonathan Edwards, American theologian and philosopher, was born.


Gobind Singh, tenth Sikh guru, died

December 12, 1712

The colony of South Carolina passed a "Sunday Law" which required everyone to attend church each Sunday and to refrain from both skilled labor and traveling by horse or wagon beyond what was absolutely necessary. Violators received a fine and/or  two hours in the village stocks.

August 06, 1727

French Ursuline nuns first arrived at New Orleans and establish the first Catholic charitable institution in America, consisting of an orphanage, a hospital and a school for girls.

April 08, 1730

America's first synagogue, Shearith Israel, was dedicated in New York City.

February 26, 1732

In Philadelphia, Mass was celebrated for the first time at St Joseph's Church the only Roman Catholic church built and maintained in the American colonies before the Revolutionary War.

February 29, 1736

Anna Lee, founder of the Shaker movement in America, was born in Manchester, England.

July 08, 1741

Jonathan Edwards preached his classic sermon, 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' a key step in the beginning of New England's Great Awakening.

June 22, 1750

Jonathan Edwards was dismissed from his post as minister of the Congregational church in Northampton, MA. He had been there for 23 years, but his ultra-conservative theology never wavered and over time both it and his inflexibility on administrative matters had become too much for the congregation.

February 14, 1760

Richard Allen, the first Black ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was born a slave in Philadelphia.

March 29, 1772

Emanuel Swedenborg died.

August 06, 1774

English religious leader Ann Lee and a small group of followers arrived in America. Her sect became known to others as the "Shakers."

July 29, 1775

The American Army began employing chaplains, making theirs the oldest branch of the army after the Infantry.

September 02, 1784

Thomas Coke was consecrated as the first "bishop" in the Methodist Episcopal Church by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Coke was later instrumental in the development and growth of Methodism in North America.

April 12, 1787

Richard Allen, the first Black ordained in the first Methodist Episcopal Church, founded the Free African Society.

June 11, 1789

Richard Allen was ordained a deacon of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen would later go on to found the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and become the first African-American bishop in the United States.

November 06, 1789

Father John Carroll was elected the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States.

December 25, 1789

During the first Christmas under America's new Constitution, the Congress was in session. This fact may seem odd today, but at the time Christmas was not a major Christian holiday. As a matter of fact, Christmas had a bad reputation among many Christians as a time of un-Christian excess and partying. Between 1659 and 1681, celebrating Christmas was actually illegal in Boston and anti-Christmas sentiment in the North prevented the day from becoming a national holiday until 1870.

March 03, 1794

Richard Allen founded African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

April 09, 1794

Richard Allen, the first Black ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the Bethel African Church.

April 09, 1799

With the help and leadership of Richard Allen, the first Black ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was created in Philadelphia by six Black Methodist congregations.

April 11, 1799

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church consecrated Richard Allen as its first bishop.

The 19th Century (1800 to 1899)

May 09, 1800

John Brown, American abolitionist, was born.

July 01, 1800

The earliest known Methodist camp meeting in America was held in Logan County, Kentucky.

February 16, 1801

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church officially separated from its parent, the Methodist Episcopal Church.

June 01, 1801

Brigham Young is born.

August 06, 1801

One of the most famous Camp Meetings occurred at Cane Ridge, Kentucky. This lead to the 'Great Religious Revival of the American West'.

March 29, 1819

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College, was born.

June 21, 1821

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church was founded in New York City.

July 16, 1821

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, was born.

July 19, 1825

Liberal members of Congregational churches in New England founded the American Unitarian Association.

February 13, 1826

The first The American Temperance Society was founded in Boston. It would later be renamed the American Temperance Union and would become a national cause. Within a decade there were over 8,000 like-minded groups with more than 1.5 million members.

March 26, 1830

At the age of 24, Joseph Smith first published his famous book "The Book of Mormon."

April 06, 1830

James Augustine Healy, first Black Roman Catholic bishop in America, was born on a plantation near Macon, Georgia. He was the son of an Irish planter and a slave.

March 26, 1831

Richard Allen, the first Black ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, died.

March 24, 1832

Mormon leader Joseph Smith was beaten, tarred and feathered in Ohio.

February 01, 1834

Henry McNeal Turner, bishop for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was born in Newberry Courthouse, South Carolina.

March 27, 1836

The first Mormon temple was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio.

July 17, 1836

William White, the first American Anglican bishop, died at the age of 88. White was the person who coined the term "Protestant Episcopal" for the new Anglican denomination.

February 05, 1837

American evangelist Dwight L. Moody was born.

June 13, 1837

Mormon missionaries set off to proselytize in England.

June 1838

A group of Mormons formed an organization that would obey Joseph Smith "in all things" and in "whatever he requires. Originally called the Daughters of Zion, they later adopted the name Sons of Dan. As a formal group, it only lasted a few weeks.

June 06, 1838

Mormons beat non-Mormons with clubs during elections in the small Missouri town of Gallatin. Several non-Mormons were seriously injured.

October 25, 1838

As tensions between Mormons and non-Mormons increased, the first battle of the "Mormon War" in Missouri occurred at Crooked River when LDS forces raided a camp of the state militia and captured a number of horses.

October 30, 1838

Outraged over Mormon attacks on the state militia, members of the militia attacked Haun's Mill, a community of Mormon refugees. Eighteen men and boys were shot dead.

October 31, 1838

Joseph Smith surrendered to Missouri officials and was charged with high treason. He escaped after five months in jail, however, and fled to Illinois.

April 1839

Joseph Smith, having escaped from jail in Missouri, joined other Mormons in the town of Quincy, Illinois. Smith renamed the town to "Nauvoo," which he claimed was Hebrew for "beautiful location".

February 1841

Mormons in Illinois founded the Nauvoo Legion, an independent local militia tasked with defending Mormon interests. Joseph Smith was named its lieutenant general, the first American to claim that rank since George Washington.

March 21, 1843

Preacher William Miller of Massachusetts predicted the world would end on this date. Obviously, the world did not end, but Miller's ideas led to the creation of the Adventist churches in America.

July 12, 1843

Mormon leader Joseph Smith said that God approved of polygamy.

January 18, 1844

Senator (later President) James Buchanan introduced a resolution in the United States Senate that the United States be declared a Christian Nation and acknowledge Jesus Christ as America's Savior. The resolution was rejected, but man similar resolutions would be introduced during the following years, including at least one that would have amended the Constitution.

June 22, 1844

Joseph Smith, accused of instigating a riot when Mormons smashed the presses of a newspaper critical of his secret doctrines on polygamy, fled from arrest.

June 24, 1844

Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested by Illinois authorities. Smith had previously attempted to use the Nauvoo militia to suppress church dissidents and to protect the city.

June 27, 1844

Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were lynched by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Smith was the founder of the Mormon Church and the mob was outraged, in part, over Smith's recent authorization of polygamous marriages.

August 08, 1844

Brigham Young was chosen to lead the Mormons.

October 22, 1844

The "Great Disappointment" occurred when the return of Christ, predicted by William Miller, failed to happen once again. At least 100,000 disillusioned followers returned to their former churches or abandoned Christianity completely - but many went on establish what would become known as the Adventist Churches.

May 01, 1845

In Louisville, Kentucky, disaffected members of the Methodist Episcopal Church organized the Methodist Episcopal Church, South as a new denomination.

February 04, 1846

Mormon settlers leave Nauvoo, Missouri, to begin the settlement of the West.

July 21, 1846

Mormons founded the first English settlement in the San Joaquin Valley of California.

April 26, 1847

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod was officially organized.

July 22, 1847

The first group of Mormon immigrants entered the Salt Lake Valley, still Mexican territory at that time. Not long thereafter, Mormon leader Brigham Young founded Salt Lake City, Utah.

May 12, 1849

Brigham Young announced to the Council of Fifty that the local Indians could not be converted and that it didn't matter "whether they kill one another off or Some body else" did it.

June 11, 1850

David C. Cook was born. Cook was a developer of the original The Sunday School curriculum in the United States.

April 18, 1857

Clarence Darrow was born.

July 13, 1857

President James Buchanan selected Alfred Cumming to replace Brigham Young as governor for the territory of Utah.

September 11, 1857

Mormon fanatic John D. Lee, angered over President Buchanan's order to remove Brigham Young from governorship of the Utah Territory, led a band of Mormons in a massacre of a California-bound wagon train of 135 (mostly Methodists) in Mountain Meadows, Utah.

September 15, 1857

Brigham Young declared martial law and forbade U.S. troops from entering Utah in order to avoid being replaced by Alfred Cumming, a non-Mormon, as governor of Utah.

November 21, 1857

Alfred Cumming, selected by President James Buchanan to replace Brigham Young as governor for the territory of Utah, took office. He immediately ordered armed Mormon groups in the territory to disband, but he was generally ignored.

June 26, 1858

The United States army entered Salt Lake City in order to restore peace and install Alfred Cumming (a non-Mormon) as governor. Mormon residents had opposed the replacement of Brigham Young, who had declared martial law and forbade U.S. troops from entering Utah. There were sporadic raids made by the Mormon militia against the winter encampment of the army, but that was the extent of the Utah War.

November 24, 1859

Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was first published. All 1,250 copies of the first printing were sold out on the very first day.

March 19, 1860

American politician and fundamentalist religious leader William Jennings Bryan was born.

September 10, 1862

Rabbi Jacob Frankel became the first Jewish chaplain in the United States Army.

November 19, 1862

The famous American evangelist Billy Sunday was born.

April 22, 1864

The motto "In God We Trust" first appeared on U.S. coins - specifically, the a bronze two-cent piece issued during the American Civil War.

February 04, 1866

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, allegedly cures her injuries by opening a Bible.

April 06, 1868

Mormon leader Brigham Young married his 27th and final wife.

June 26, 1870

Under the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, Congress officially declared Christmas to be a national holiday.

October 02, 1871

Brigham Young, Mormon leader, was arrested for bigamy.

June 04, 1873

Charles F. Parham was born. Parham was an early leader among charismatic Christians in America and, in 1898, he founded the Bible training school in Topeka, Kansas, where the American Pentecostal movement started in 1901.

October 03, 1875

Hebrew Union College was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio under the auspices of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. It was the first Jewish college in America to train men to become rabbis.

March 23, 1877

John Doyle Lee, a Mormon fanatic, was executed by a firing squad, Lee had masterminded a massacre of Arkansas Methodist emigrants in 1857. In the "Mountain Meadows Massacre," a wagon train of 127 died at Mountain Meadows (near Cedar City), Utah.

August 29, 1877

Brigham Young died.

June 04, 1878

Frank N. Buchman is born. Buchman was an early leader of the social gospel movement.

March 22, 1882

Polygamy was outlawed by Congress, specifically targeting the practices of the Mormon church.

January 19, 1889

The Salvation Army split; one group renounced allegiance to founder William Booth while another, lead by Booth's son Ballington and his wife Maud, incorporated itself as a separate organization in America in 1896.

February 17, 1889

The famous American evangelist Billy Sunday held his first public crusade in Chicago. Over the course of his career as a popular religious speaker, at least 100 million Americans are estimated to have attended his sermons.

May 06, 1890

The Mormon Church officially renounced polygamy.

September 25, 1890

Mormon President Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto in which the practice of polygamy was renounced.

October 06, 1890

Polygamy was outlawed by the Mormon Church.

October 09, 1890

Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Four Square Gospel Church, was born.

November 10, 1891

The first Woman's Christian Temperance Union meeting was held in Boston.

September 14, 1893

Pope Leo XIII appointed Archbishop Francesco Satolli to be the first Apostolic Delegate to the USA.

July 09, 1896

William Jennings Bryan delivered his famous Cross of Gold speech.

October 07, 1897

Elijah Mohammed, Black Muslim leader. was born.

January 1899

In the apostolic letter Testem benevolentiae, Pope Leo XIII condemned the "heresy" of "Americanism," a doctrine which he regarded as an attempt by American Catholic clergy to reconcile Catholic teachings with modern thought and liberties.

December 27, 1899

Carry Nation, a leader of the American Christian temperance movement, raided and wrecked her first saloon in Medicine Lodge, Kansas.

The 20th Century (1900 to 1999)

March 21, 1900

After the death of founder Dwight L. Moody, the Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions changed its name to Moody Bible Institute.

March 26, 1900

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College, died.

February 22, 1906

Black evangelist William J. Seymour arrived in Los Angeles and began a series of revival meetings. This "Azusa Street Revival" which would later grow at the Apostolic Faith Mission located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles was key in the development of American Pentecostalism.

April 13, 1906

The Azusa Street Revival, the mission which formed the nexus of the American Pentecostal movement, officially began when the church services led by Black evangelist William J. Seymour moved into a building on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California.

June 29, 1908

With the publication of the apostolic constitution Sapienti consilio, Pope Pius X caused the American Catholic Church to cease being a "missionary church" under the control of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide. Now, it was a full-fledged member of the Roman Catholic Church.

January 02, 1909

Aimee Elizabeth Semple, who would later found the Foursquare Gospel church, was ordained to the ministry in Chicago with her husband Robert Semple.

April 09, 1909

The first recorded instances in America of groups speaking in tongues occurred in Los Angeles under the leadership of Black evangelist William J. Seymour. This event marked the beginning of the three-year-long "Azusa Street Revival," key in the development of Pentecostalism.

July 20, 1910

The Christian Endeavor Society of Missouri, an early forerunner of the American Religious Right, instituted a campaign to ban movies depicting kissing between non-relatives.

March 13, 1911

L. Ron Hubbard, science-fiction author and founder of Scientology, was born.

April 12, 1914

The Assemblies of God denomination was founded during an 11-day constitutional convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

May 08, 1915

Henry McNeal Turner, bishop for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, died in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

November 07, 1918

Billy Graham was born.

January 02, 1920

Isaac Asimov was born.

January 15, 1920

Cardinal John O'Connor was born.

October 19, 1921

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, was born.

January 05, 1922

After a sensational divorce, American evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson resigned her Assemblies of God ordination.

January 01, 1923

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was founded.

September 15, 1923

In an effort to counter the terrorist activities of the Ku Klux Klan, Governor John Calloway Walton placed Oklahoma under martial law.

May 27, 1924

At a meeting in Maryland, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church repealed a ban on dancing and theater attendance for church members.

August 15, 1924

Phyllis Schlafly was born.

October 08, 1924

At a meeting in New York City, the National Lutheran Conference banned the playing of jazz music in the local churches.

May 07, 1925

John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in his Dayton, Tennessee, high school biology class.

May 13, 1925

Florida passed a law requiring daily Bible readings in all public schools.

May 18, 1925

At the age of 34, American evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared while on a trip to the beach. She reappeared five weeks later, claiming to have been kidnapped and held prisoner, before managing to escape.

July 07, 1925

William Jennings Bryan arrived in Dayton, Tennessee, a day before the Scopes Monkey Trial was to start.

July 10, 1925

The infamous Scopes Monkey Trial began in the Rhea County Courthouse of Dayton, Tennessee.

July 21, 1925

The infamous "Monkey Trial" ended and John Scopes was found guilty of teaching Darwinism.

July 26, 1925

American politician and fundamentalist religious leader William Jennings Bryan died.

September 16, 1926

Robert H. Schuller was born.

December 30, 1927

Originally founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in 1923, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was officially incorporated in Los Angeles, California.

March 22, 1930

American televangelist Pat Robertson was born.

November 02, 1930

Haile Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia, thus fulfilling for many people a prophecy which became a cornerstone of Rastafarianism.

September 13, 1931

Still recovering from a nervous breakdown, Foursquare Gospel founder Aimee Semple McPherson married David Hutton; they divorced only four years later.

March 20, 1933

The first Nazi concentration camp was completed at Dachau.

April 24, 1933

Felix Adler, founder of the Ethical Culture movement, died in New York City.

August 11, 1933

Jerry Falwell was born. Falwell is a prominent leader in the American Religious Right and helped found the Moral Majority in 1979.

November 09, 1934

Carl Sagan was born.

November 11, 1934

Charles Edward Coughlin founded the National Union for Social Justice (Union Party).

March 15, 1935

Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was born.

June 10, 1935

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio.

June 29, 1936

Pius XI issued an encyclical to American bishops entitled "On motion pictures"

May 09, 1939

The Roman Catholic Church beatified the first Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha.

May 10, 1939

After a separation of 109 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church in the U.S. was reunited. The Methodist Protestant Church had broken away in 1830 and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South had broken away in 1844.

October 05, 1941

Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, died at the age of 84.

May 09, 1942

John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, was born.

September 27, 1944

Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Church of the Four-Square Gospel, died.

May 14, 1948

Israel was formally established as an independent state.


Indian law abolished the "untouchable" class, the lowest of all the old Hindu hereditary castes.

September 30, 1951

Billy Graham's "Hour of Decision" program first aired on ABC.

June 19, 1956

Jerry Falwell broke away from the church were he was saved and founded Thomas Road Baptist Church, the church he continues to lead.

November 26, 1956

Ellery Schempp, protesting the mandatory reading of passages from the Bible in his public school homeroom, decided to read passages from the Koran instead of the Bible; that earned him a trip to the principal's office. He and his family would request help from the American Civil Liberties Union, launching the case of School District of Abington Township v. Schempp. In the end, The Supreme Court ruled that such mandatory religious exercises were unconstitutional.

June 25, 1957

The Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged, creating the United Church of Christ (UCC).

December 09, 1958

The John Birch Society was founded.

March 03, 1959

The Unitarian Church and the Universalist Church both voted to merge into a single denomination.

On May 23, 1959 

Shunryu Suzuki arrived in San Francisco, and over the following years brought legitimate Zen Buddhist practice to the United States. 

April 28, 1960

The 100th General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) passed a resolution declaring that sexual relations in the context of marriage but without the intent to conceive children were not sinful.

December 08, 1960

Madalyn Murray (later O'Hair) filed suit in the Baltimore to force the end of required Bible readings and recitations of the Lord's Prayer in public schools.

August 04, 1961

The Christian Broadcasting Network, founded and run by Pat Robertson, began broadcasting over the radio.

October 01, 1961

The Christian Broadcasting Network, founded and run by Pat Robertson, began broadcasting on TV.

March 27, 1962

Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel of Louisiana ordered all Roman Catholic schools in the New Orleans diocese to end their policies of racial segregation.

April 06, 1962

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 against Madalyn Murray (later O'Hair) in her case to force the end of required Bible readings and recitations of the Lord's Prayer in public schools.

July 05, 1962

Helmut Richard Niebuhr died at the age of 67.

March 17, 1963

Elizabeth Ann Seton of New York was beatified by Pope John XXIII.

May 21, 1963

The highest governing body of the United Presbyterian Church stated for the record its opposition to mandatory prayers in public schools, Sunday closing laws, and special tax privileges accorded to both churches and the clergy.

February 08, 1964

Congress debated an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1963 which would have removed the protection of prohibitions against religious discrimination from atheists. Proposed by Ohio Republican John Ashbrook, the amendment read: "...it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to hire and employ any person because of said persons' atheistic practices and beliefs." The amendment was passed by the House of Representatives, 137-98, but it failed to pass the Senate.

February 27, 1964

World Heavyweight boxing champion announced that he was joining the Nation of Islam and that his new name would be Cassius X. Later, he would change his name to Mohammad Ali. 

March 12, 1964

Malcolm X resigned from the Nation of Islam.


As late as this year Jerry Falwell continued to denounce civil rights leaders, even though he has claimed to have changed his mind about segregation and racism in the early 1960s.

February 21, 1965

Malcolm X was assassinated by three Black Muslims while he was speaking to an audience in Harlem, New York City.

March 09, 1965

Three White Unitarian ministers participating in a civil rights demonstration on the streets of Selma, Alabama, were beaten by a mob. One, Rev. James J. Reeb, died later in a Birmingham, Alabama hospital.

June 14, 1965

In an editorial that appeared in the bi-weekly journal "Christianity & Crisis," a statement signed by 16 prominent Protestant clergymen argued that American policies in Vietnam threatened "our chance to cooperate with the Soviet Union for peace in Asia."

November 18, 1966

This was the last Friday on which American Roman Catholics were required to abstain from eating meat. The change was due to a decree made by Pope Paul VI earlier the same year.


Jerry Falwell created a racially segregated "Christian" school in order to avoid public school desegregation. As a result, Falwell was denounced by other local religious leaders.

June 05, 1967

Israel launched a preemptive attack on Egypt and other Arab nations. During the six-day conflict, which came to be known as the Six-Day War, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank of the Jordan River.


Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church was finally desegregated.

March 05, 1968

Church of All Worlds became the first Wiccan church to be incorporated in the United States.

April 23, 1968

In Dallas, the Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren churches unified to form the United Methodist Church, creating the second largest Protestant denomination in the USA.

January 09, 1970

After 140 years of unofficial discrimination, the Mormon Church officially declared that Blacks could not become priests "for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man."

June 01, 1970

Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr died at the age of 78 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


Jerry Falwell established the Lynchburg Baptist College, later renamed the Liberty Baptist College.

June 1972

Reverend William Johnson becomes the first openly gay person ordained in any Christian organization: the United Church of Christ.

August 1972

Gallup polls revealed that 64 percent of the general public and 56 percent of Roman Catholics in America favored leaving the decision about an abortion to a woman and her doctor.


The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church with "fraud and deceit" in the issuance of $6.5 million in unsecured church bonds. Falwell admitted that the SEC was "technically" correct, but a biography of Falwell written by his staff claimed that his church won the suit and was cleared of the charges. This is a lie and the church's finances were actually put in the hands of five local businessmen to settle matters.

January 22, 1973

Decided: Roe v. Wade
This landmark decision established that women have a basic right to have an abortion. Through various cases, the Supreme Court developed the idea that the Constitution protects a person's to privacy, particularly when it comes to matters involving children and procreation.

February 13, 1973

The National Council of U.S. Catholic Bishops announced that anyone undergoing or performing an abortion would be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

September 04, 1973

The Assemblies of God opened its first theological graduate school in Springfield, Missouri. This was the second Pentecostal school of theology in the United States, with the first opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma by Oral Roberts.

January 13, 1974

Under the leadership of Jim Bakker, the PTL Club began broadcasting in the United States.

August 9, 1974

Naropa University in Boulder Colorada was unofficially begun by Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa and Alan Watts. It would become the first major accredited university of Buddhist Studies in the U.S. 

September 14, 1975

Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized by Pope Paul VI.

September 16, 1976

The Episcopal Church approved of the ordination of women as priests and bishops.

June 19, 1977

John Nepomuceno Neumann was canonized byPope Paul VI, becoming the first American-born male saint. Neumann was the fourth Bishop of the Philadelphia Diocese and his most important mark on American Catholicism may be his creation of the parochial school system.

November 10, 1977

Pope Paul VI abolished the automatic excommunication imposed on divorced American Catholics who remarried. This penalty of excommunication was first handed down by the Plenary Council of American Bishops in 1884.

June 08, 1978

The Mormon Church ended a policy of discrimination against African-Americans. After 148 years, Blacks were finally permitted to serve as spiritual leaders.

June 11, 1978

Joseph Freeman Jr. was ordained as the first Black Mormon priest.

October 16, 1978

John Paul II was elected pope.

February 11, 1979

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran.

May 1979

Jerry Falwell was recruited by far-right activists Howard Phillips, Ed Mcatee, and Paul Wenrich to form and lead the Moral Majority. Their goal was to bring fundamentalist Protestants to the Republican Party in the hopes of defeating Jimmy Carter in the presidential elections the following year.

August 01, 1979

Linda Joy Holtzman became the rabbi for the Conservative Beth Israel congregation in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. She was thus the female rabbi to lead a Jewish congregation in the USA.

January 22, 1980

Jerry Falwell attended a prayer breakfast at the White House prayer with Jimmy Carter. Falwell would later claim, incorrectly, that he asked Carter why there were "well known practicing homosexuals" on his staff and received the answer that Carter considered himself the president of all citizens.

January 24, 1980

On this night, William Murray (son of American atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair) had a dream which he interpreted as a religious vision from God, leading to his conversion to a fundamentalist brand of Christianity. He gave up drinking and smoking and engaged in efforts to undue the separation of church and state which his mother had long struggled for.

October 06, 1981

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists.

May 18, 1982

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder and leader of the Unification Church, is found guilty in federal court of four separate counts of income tax evasion.

July 01, 1982

Reverend Sun Myung Moon, of the Unification Church married 2,075 couples at Madison Square Garden. Many of the newlyweds were complete strangers to one another.

July 16, 1982

Rev. Sun Myung Moon was sentenced to 18 months in prison for tax fraud and obstruction of justice.

June 10, 1983

The Presbyterian Church (USA) was created in Atlanta, Georgia, reuniting the long-divided the United Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA) and the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS).

July 04, 1983

Rev. Jerry Falwell described AIDS as a "gay plague."

June 14, 1984

The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution against ordaining women in the Baptist Church.

July 1984

Jerry Falwell was forced to pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. During a TV debate in Sacramento, Falwell falsely denied calling the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches "brute beasts" and "a vile and Satanic system" that will "one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven." When Sloan insisted he had a tape, Falwell promised $5,000 if he could produce it. Sloan did, Falwell refused to pay, and Sloan successfully sued. Falwell appealed, with his attorney alleging that the Jewish judge in the case was prejudiced. Falwell lost again and was forced to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees.

November 1984

Reports from the Federal Election Commission reveal that Jerry Falwell's "I Love America Committee," a political action committee created in 1983, was a flop. The PAC raised $485,000 in its first year but had spent $413,000 in the process.

February 14, 1985

In the United States, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism formally announced that they would begin to accept women as rabbis.

May 1985

Jerry Falwell apologized to a Jewish group for seeking a "Christian" America. From now on, he promised, he would use the term "Judeo-Christian" America.

June 11, 1985

Karen Ann Quinlan, comatose since 1976, died at the age of 31 after a court permitted the removal of her respirator.

January 1986

Jerry Falwell held a press conference in Washington, D.C., in order to announce that he was changing the name of the Moral Majority to the Liberty Foundation. This new title never caught on and was abandoned before long.

March 1986

Father Charles E. Curran, a moral theologian at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., revealed that the Vatican had given him an ultimatum: retract his views on birth control, divorce, and other matters pertaining to sexuality, or lose the authority to teach Roman Catholic doctrine. Thousands protested this ultimatum and Curran refused to retract; eventually, the Vatican revoked his license to teach as a Catholic theologian and in 1987 he was suspended from Catholic University entirely.

January 1987

Televangelist Oral Roberts announced that God had informed him that he would be "called home" if he did not raise USD $8 million by March 31 of that year. This money was supposedly needed for missionary work in underdeveloped nations and the plea was evidently successful - a shortfall of over USD $1 million was made up for at the last minute by Jerry Collins, a Florida racetrack owner.

March 19, 1987

Jim Bakker resigned as head of the PTL ministry after the revelation of a 1980 sexual affair a with church secretary, Jessica Hahn.

April 20, 1987

In Columbus, Ohio, three smaller Lutheran groups merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), becoming the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. It was not officially incorporated, however, until the next year.

June 1987

Televangelist Oral Roberts claimed that he had raised numerous people from the dead.

July 01, 1987

President Reagan nominated conservative jurist Robert Bork to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. In October, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9 to 5 against the nomination and the entire Senate later did the same.

August 1987

In New Hampshire, a United Methodist Church court suspended Rose Mary Denman, a lesbian minister, because she violated a church rule which prohibited practicing homosexuals from being in the clergy.

August 27, 1987

Jamie Dodge of Mississippi was fired from her job at the Salvation Army because she was Pagan. She later filed suit against the Salvation Army for religious discrimination and won.

October 1987

The Federal Election Commission imposed a $6,000 fine on Jerry Falwell because he illegally transferred $6.7 million in funds intended for his religious ministry to his various political efforts.

October 01, 1987

Pat Robertson announced that he would seek the Republican nomination for president.

November 1987

Jerry Falwell announced that he was resigning as head of the Moral Majority, retiring from politics completely, because he wanted to spend more time with his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, and his television ministry.

November 30, 1987

Argued: Lyng v. Northwest Indian CPA
By a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court would allow a road to be built through sacred Indian lands. The Court did acknowledge that the road would, in fact, be devastating to their religious practice, but simply found this to be regrettable.


Jerry Falwell replaced Jim Bakker on PTL television show.

January 01, 1988

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America(ELCA) was officially incorporated.

February 21, 1988

During a live TV broadcast, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart admitted that he had visited a prostitute and announced that he would leave his ministry for an unspecified length of time. In April of that same year his Assemblies of God denomination defrocked him and ordered him to stay off television for a year, but he returned much sooner.

February 24, 1988

The United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Jerry Falwell could not collect damages for a parody that appeared in the magazine Hustler.

April 08, 1988

Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was defrocked by the Assemblies of God after it was revealed that he was involved with a prostitute. Swaggart was ordered to stay off TV for a year but returned anyway after just three months.

May 1988

The United Methodist Church formally rejected the notion or value of pluralism when, during the General Conference in St. Louis, Bishop Jack Tuell declared "The time has come to say the last rites over the notion that the defining characteristic of United Methodist theology is pluralism." This was just one of many examples of Protestant groups in America turning towards more conservative theological, social, and political stances.

August 01, 1988

Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" opens to widespread complaints and protests over its blasphemous content.

December 05, 1988

A federal grand jury charged Jim Bakker with mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the public through the sale of thousands of lifetime memberships to PTL theme park, Heritage U.S.A.

January 09, 1989

Decided: Dodge v. Salvation Army
Can religious organizations receiving federal, state, and local government funding discriminate against people whose religion they don't like? A district court in Mississippi ruled "no," finding in favor of a pagan and against the Salvation Army.

June 1989

Jerry Falwell announced that the Moral Majority would disband and shut down its offices.

July 02, 1989

Reverend George A. Stallings, Jr., a Black Roman Catholic priest, defied the orders of his archbishop and established an independent African-American Catholic congregation in Washington, D.C. Stallings argued that he wasn't setting up a schismatic church and instead was simply trying to create a mode of worship that was sensitive to the needs of Black Catholics. Despite this, he would later declare that his Imani Temple was "no longer under Rome" and would permit things like abortion, divorce, and the ordination of women. This, according to the Vatican, automatically excommunicated Stallings.

August 28, 1989

Jim Bakker's fraud and conspiracy trial began.

August 31, 1989

During his trial for fraud and conspiracy, Jim Bakker suffered a breakdown in his attorney's office.

October 05, 1989

Jim Bakker was convicted of using his television show to defraud his viewers.

October 24, 1989

Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $500,000. Many considered this judgment to be particularly harsh and, 1991, his sentence was reduced to eighteen years and he was released on parole after a total five years in prison.

October 31, 1989

Argued: Jimmy Swaggart Ministries v. Board of Equalization of California
Should religious organizations be totally exempt from taxation because the collection of such taxes violates both the Free Exercise and the Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment?

January 1990

In New York, Auxiliary Bishop Austin Vaughn declared that New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a Catholic, was in "serious risk of going to hell" because he believed that abortion was a matter of individual women's conscience.

April 09, 1992

In the newspaper Catholic New York, Cardinal John O'Connor wrote that: "[I]f the Church's authority is rejected on such a crucial question as human life [in the debate over abortion], ...then questioning of the Trinity becomes child's play, as does the divinity of Christ or any other Church teaching."

November 04, 1992

Argued: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah
When this case was decided, the Court unanimously invalidated city ordinances outlawing animal sacrifices.

January 1993

In the wake of Bill Clinton's election as president, Jerry Falwell mailed out fund-raising letters asking people to vote on whether he should reactivate the Moral Majority. Later he would refuse to reveal jus how much money he raised, simply telling reporters he has no intention of reactivating his old organization.

February 1993

The Internal Revenue Service found that money from Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour program was illegally diverted to a political action committee. The IRS imposed a $50,000 fine on Falwell and revoked the Old Time Gospel Hour's tax-exempt status for 1986-87.

February 28, 1993

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) along with the FBI and other federal agents staged a raid the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas.

March 1993

Despite an earlier promise to Jewish groups to stop referring to America as a "Christian" nation, Jerry Falwell delivered a sermon stating that "we must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours."

March 10, 1993

Michael Griffin shot and killed Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida. This was the first murder of an abortion provider by an anti-abortion activist.

April 19, 1993

A new ATF assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, lead to a fire which killed 72-86 people, including Davidian leader David Koresh.

July 29, 1993

Rev. Paul Hill shot and killed Dr. John Britton, an abortion provider.

June 1994

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, administrative body for Reform Judaism in America, considered and rejected (by a large margin) the application for membership submitted by the Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati. This synagogue had removed all references to God in its services, explaining that its own members wished to explore their Jewish heritage and identity without being forced to rely upon theistic assumptions.

June 1994

The Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Atlanta, formally apologized to African-Americans for "condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime" and repented for the "racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously."

July 1994

Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, a prominent leader in the United Methodist Church, became the highest ranking member of that denomination to announce that she was gay. According to Powers, she took that step as "an act of public resistance to false teachings that have contributed to heresy and homophobia within the church itself."

August 1994

Molly Marshall, the first woman to achieve tenure at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, was forced to resign after accusations of her promoting liberal doctrines.

December 09, 1994

Because of her controversial and outspoken opinions on sex education and drub abuse, U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders is forced to tender her resignation.

March 26, 1995

In the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II ordered all Catholic voters, judges, and legislators to obey Vatican teaching in their decisions and votes: "In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it."

March 31, 1995

The ACLU filed a complaint against Judge Moore, charging that his display of Ten Commandments and his practice of initiating courtroom proceedings with a prayer, violated the First Amendment.

September 28, 1995

Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed an accord transferring control of the West Bank to Palestinians.

November 1995

Religion in Public Schools: An amendment to the US constitution was introduced to congress by Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK). It overruled the traditional separation of church and state by allowing organized school prayer in public schools. His amendment had the support of the Christian Coalition and some other very conservative Christian groups, but it received major opposition from many other Christian groups who valued church-state separation.

December 09, 1995

The Christian Coalition created the "Catholic Alliance," a "fully owned subsidiary" of the Christian Coalition designed to appeal to conservative Catholics.

January 1996

The American Baptist Church of the West expelled four San Francisco Bay congregations for welcoming homosexuals and not teaching that homosexual activity is a sin.

April 1996

Delegates at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted down a proposal to eliminate language in church law that declares homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching."

April 15, 1996

Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, excommunicated all Catholics in his diocese who continued to belong to organizations which he deemed "perilous to the Catholic faith" - organizations like Planned Parenthood and Call to Action.

June 1996

The Southern Baptist Convention announced a boycott of all Disney parks and products because of the company's decision to give insurance benefits to the partners of gay employees and for hosting "Gay Days" at Disney theme parks.

September 27, 1996

The Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and hanged the former president Najibullah.

December 20, 1996

Reflecting on his failed lawsuit against Larry Flynt because of the parody Flynt published in the magazine "Hustler," Jerry Falwell stated: "If Larry had been physically able and were not in a wheelchair, there'd have been no lawsuit. I'm a Campbell County, Virginia country boy. I'd just take him outside the barn and whip him and that'd be the end of it."

February 23, 1997

The birth of Dolly the sheep, which actually occurred the previous year, was announced to the world. Dolly was the first mammal cloned from an adult.

March 05, 1997

The US House of Representatives voted 295-125 to support Judge Roy Moore, a local judge in Alabama who has refused to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom. Alabama Gov. Fob James has promised to deploy the National Guard and state troopers rather than see the display come down.

March 23, 1997

Thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult in California began committing mass suicide in anticipation of the arrival of comet Hale-Bopp. The suicides would take place in three groups over the course of three days.

June 23, 1997

Governor Fob James of Alabama claimed in a Federal District Court that the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not apply to the states and, hence, cannot be used to find any state laws unconstitutional.

November 1997

In order to relieve some Liberty University's debt, Jerry Falwell accepted $3.5 million from a group representing Sun Myung Moon. This donation, and several later appearances by Jerry Falwell at Moon conferences, raised eyebrows among American fundamentalists and evangelists because Moon claims to be the messiah sent to complete the failed mission of Jesus Christ, a doctrine sharply at odds with Falwell's own theology.

June 04, 1998

Religion in Public Schools: The previously mentioned Istook constitutional amendment had passed through the committee stage, but did not receive the 2/3 majority vote which would have been needed in the House to allow it to proceed to the Senate.

January 1999

Jerry Falwell announced at a pastors' conference in that the Antichrist is alive today and "of course he'll be Jewish."

February 1999

Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal newspaper issued a "parental alert" which warned that Tinky Winky, a character on the children's show "Teletubbies," might be gay.

February 07, 1999

Judy Poag (D) proposed bill in the Georgia legislature requiring public school districts to display the Ten Commandments. Those who refused to do so would be penalized financially and perhaps even have their state funding cut off. Another bill would permit "student-initiated spoken prayer during the school day." Teachers would be prohibited from " Participating in or actively supervising such prayer." Under this bill, a student could evidently just interrupt class with a prayer and continue the disruption for hours while the teacher would be powerless to stop it.

March 1999

Religion in Public Schools: In New Hampshire, House Bill 398 was sponsored by 8 state legislators to allow individual school districts to have students recite the Christian Lord's Prayer in school. "194:15-a Lord's Prayer, Silent Individual Reflections and the Pledge of Allegiance in Public Elementary Schools. As a continuation of the policy of teaching our country's history and as an affirmation of the freedom of religion in this country, a school district may authorize the recitation of the traditional Lord's prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag in public elementary schools. In addition, a school district may authorize a period of time, after the recitation of the Lord's prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag, for silent reflections representative of a pupil's personal religious beliefs. Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayers and pledge of allegiance shall be voluntary. Pupils shall be reminded that the Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms, which freedoms include the freedom or religion and are symbolized by the recitation of the Lord's prayer and other silent religious reflections."

May 03, 1999

Decided: Combs v. Central Texas Annual The Fifth Circuit Court ruled that a church could not be sued for gender discrimination after a female pastor was fired.

The 21st Century (2000 to present)

March 31, 2000

A Joint Resolution of the Kentucky General Assembly was passed, requiring public schools in the state to include lessons on Christian influences on America and calling for the display of the Ten Commandments in schools and on State Capitol grounds.

May 03, 2000

Cardinal John O'Connor died in New York City.

October 12, 2000

Decided: Williams v. Pryor
The 11th Circuit Court ruled that the Alabama legislature was within its rights to ban the sale of "sex toys," and that people do not necessarily have any right to buy them.

November 07, 2000

Judge Roy Moore was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

December 13, 2000

Decided: Elkhart vs. Brooks
The 7th Circuit Court ruled that a Fraternal Order of Eagles Ten Commandments monument at an Indian city hall was unconstitutional.

January 15, 2001

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was sworn into office, pledging that "God's law will be publicly acknowledged in our court."

February 24, 2001

The Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the 7th Circuit Court which barred Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon from placing a Ten Commandments marker in front of the Indiana State Capitol.

March 12, 2001

In Afghanistan, the Taliban blew up two 2,000-year-old Buddhist statues in the cliffs above Bamian - despite an international outcry which included complaints from various Muslim nations.

May 29, 2001

Decided: Elkhart vs. Brooks
The Supreme Court let stand a 7th Circuit Court ruling which found that a Fraternal Order of Eagles Ten Commandments monument at an Indian city hall was unconstitutional.

June 28, 2001

Decided: Williams v. Lara
The Texas Supreme Court decided that an "all fundamentalist" prison section was unconstitutional, even though the prisoners volunteered to be there where other religious beliefs were excluded.

July 27, 2001

Decided: O'Bannon v. Indiana Civil Liberties Union
The Supreme Court refused to hear a case about a large monument in Indiana which would have included the Ten Commandments. What was the original 7th Circuit Court decision, and why did they reach that conclusion? What does this mean for future cases?

July 31, 2001

Judge Roy Moore unveiled a four-foot-tall, 5,000+ pound granite display of the Ten Commandments which was installed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

September 09, 2001

Jerry Falwell stated: "Since the Antichrist will not be revealed before Jesus comes, I believe conditions are falling in place, i.e., one-world government, so he can rule the world after Jesus comes. But we're moving toward a one-world government through the United Nations, through the world court and a growing world opinion. The problem is that the one-world opinion is taking the side of the Palestinians, not the side of Israel."

September 11, 2001

In the United States, four airliners were hijacked by Muslim terrorists and intentionally crashed.

September 13, 2001

During an exchange with Pat Robertson on the 700 Club, Jerry Falwell explained what he thought caused the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center: "The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this. ... And I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say: "You helped this happen."" Pat Robertson agreed with these remarks, but later backed away from them.

October 30, 2001

Lawsuits were filed on behalf of three lawyers who sought the removal of Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. The suit claimed that the monument "constitutes an impermissible endorsement of religion by the state."

January 27, 2002

A 20-year-old woman became the first Palestinian female suicide bomber when she blew herself up on a Jerusalem street, killing one person and injuring 100 others.

February 19, 2002

Speaking before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that "Civilized people - Muslims, Christians and Jews - all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator. Civilized people of all religious faiths are called to the defense of His creation," implying that atheists. simply aren't civilized.

February 21, 2002

On his "700 Club" program, Pat Robertson stated that Islam ". . . . is not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist. They want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then if need be destroy."

March 28, 2002

In Mississippi, the "George County Times" published a letter from George County Justice Court Judge Connie Wilkerson which read, in part, "In my opinion, gays and lesbians should be put in some type of mental institution." Because of the bias expressed in such a statement, an ethics violation complaint was filed against Wilkerson.

June 17, 2002

Decided: Watchtower Society v. Village of Stratton
Should people going door-to-door for solicitations, canvassing, etc. be required to get a permit first? The Jehovah's Witnesses don't think so, and challenged just such a law in the Village of Stratton, Ohio. The 6th Circuit Court decided against them, but the case will soon be decided by the Supreme Court.

June 24, 2002

A Utah judge found Mormon polygamist Tom Green guilty of raping Linda Kunz, a child whom he married when she was 13 and he was 37.

July 24, 2002

Pioneer Day: Mormons commemorate the first settlement in the Salt Lake area by Brigham Young.

November 18, 2002

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery, Alabama, ordered the removal of Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument, finding that it violated the constitution's ban on government establishment of religion. Thompson wrote in his decision that "the Ten Commandments monument, viewed alone or in the context of its history, placement, and location, has the primary effect of endorsing religion."

February 13, 2003

Televangelist Pat Robertson revealed that he had prostate cancer and would undergo surgery.

February 14, 2003

David Wayne Hull, a Ku Klux Klan leader in Pennsylvania and adherent of Christian Identity, was arrested for plotting to blow up abortion clinics.

February 27, 2003

United States Representative Lucas from Oklahoma introduced House Joint Resolution 27 which would add an amendment to the United States Constitution asserting that it is not "an establishment of religion for teachers in public school to recite, or to lead willing students in the recitation of" the The Pledge of Allegiance when it contains the phrase "under God." This was essentially an admission that the Constitution, as it stands, does not permit such recitation.

March 04, 2003

The United States Senate voted 94-0 that it "strongly" disapproved of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision not to reconsider its ruling that the addition of the phase "under God" to the The Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional.

March 16, 2003

Catholic archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of the Mobile, Alabama archdiocese admitted that he permitted Rev. J. Alexander Sherlock to remain in the pulpit at a church in Montgomery even after he admitted in 1998 to sexual abuse of a teenage boy in the 1970s.

March 17, 2003

Speaking on the 700 Club, Pat Robertson expressed his support for the separation of church and state when the "church" in question involved a religion other than Christianity: "If the United States tries nation building [in Iraq], it's got to [have] at the very top of its agenda a separation of church and state. There has to be a secular state in there [Iraq] and not an Islamic state... So it's going to be absolutely imperative to set up a constitution and safeguards that say we will maintain a secular state..."

March 20, 2003

The United States House of Representatives voted 400-7 to condemn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision not to reconsider its ruling that the addition of the phase "under God" to the The Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. The seven who voted against the resolution were all Democrats.

March 20, 2003

Around 2:30 GMT the United States begins its invasion of Iraq by launching a series of air strikes against Baghdad in the hopes of quickly killing leaders of the Iraqi government and ousting Saddam Hussein with his Baathist government once and for all.

April 7, 2003

The Boston Globe wins the Pulizter Prize for Public Service for a series of articles exposing the coverup of a widespread series of sexual abuse cases by priests of the Boston Archdiocese. This opens the door to hundreds of court cases over the next decade. 

May 09, 2003

The National Association of Evangelicals, a group of evangelical Christians, condemned Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Vines, Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders for their many anti-Islamic statements.

July 01, 2003

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal from Roy Moore in his effort to keep his Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. The court considered what could happen if the monument were allowed: "Every government building could be topped with a cross, or a menorah, or a statue of Buddha, depending upon the views of the officials with authority over the premises."

August 05, 2003

Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was elected bishop-designate of New Hampshire by the Episcopal General Convention during its meeting in Minneapolis. This election sparked outrage by conservative Anglican Churches around the world and initiated moves towards a schism within Episcopal Church and conservative, evangelical churches tried to distances themselves from a leadership they felt had descended into heresy.

August 20, 2003

This is the deadline given to Roy Moore to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building, but he refused to act. A crowd of monument supporters grows at the building over the course of several days and some are arrested for refusing to leave the monument.

August 21, 2003

Because Roy Moore refused to remove his Ten Commandments monument by the August 20th deadline, the associate Justices of Alabama Supreme Court unanimously overruled Moore and ordered the monument removed by the building's manager. The eight justices wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."

August 22, 2003

Because Roy Moore disobeyed a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument, the state Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with violating six canons of ethics and he was suspended with pay pending trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

August 25, 2003

Alabama Chief Justice Moore was suspended for his refusal to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

August 25, 2003

Supporters of Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument filed suit in federal court in Mobile to try and block the monument's removal. It was filed on behalf of two Alabama residents described as Christians who believe "the United States was founded upon Jesus Christ" and their freedom of religion is being violated.

August 27, 2003

Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument was moved out of the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building to comply with a federal court order.

September 03, 2003

Rev. Paul Hill was executed by the State of Florida for the murders of John Britton, a medical doctor, and James Barrett, a retired military officer, as they were entering The Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida, where Britton performed abortions.

October 22, 2003

On the news program Crossfire, Jerry Falwell explained that God was responsible for the election and re-election of President Clinton. The reason: "I think that we needed Bill Clinton, because we turned our backs on the Lord and we needed a bad President to get our attention again. To pray for a good President. That's what I believe."

November 03, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, upholding U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling to have Moore's Ten Commandments monument removed. “The state may not acknowledge the sovereignty of the Judeo-Christian God and attribute to that God our religious freedom,” wrote Judge Thompson in his ruling.

November 13, 2003

An Alabama state ethics board unanimously ruled that when Chief Justice Roy Moore defied a federal judge's order to move a stone Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, he violated state judicial ethics rules. As a consequence, he has been removed from his office of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

November 13, 2003

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from his elected position because he refused to follow U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

November 18, 2003

In the Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health case, the Supreme Court found that same-sex couples had the right to marry.  

February 17, 2004

Bishop Thomas O'Brien, former head of Arizona's largest Roman Catholic diocese, was convicted of a hit and run. He thus became the first Catholic bishop in the United States to ever be convicted of a felony.

February 17, 2004

According to a CNN survey, children made more than 11,000 allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The 4,450 priests involved constitute about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests who served during the 52 years covered by the study.

February 25, 2004

Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" opens in theaters in the United States.

March 20, 2004

A lesbian minister in Bothell, Washington, is acquitted by a Methodist church jury of violating church rules.

May 17, 2004

Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.  The first marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples the same day

April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI ,  born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger became the 265th Pope of the Roman Cathrolic Church.

September 30, 2005 

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Muhammad, the principal figure of the religion of Islam, leading Muslim groups in Denmark complained.

May 19, 2006

The film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel The Davinci Code was released, in which it was suggested that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had children. This led to outrage by many Christians in the U.S. and worldwide.  

May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, leader of the political group of conservative Christians known as the Moral Majority, died in Lynchburg, VA. 

March 14, 2008

A peaceful demonstration by Buddhist monks if Lhasa, Tibet turned into a riot that killed 18 civilians when police backed by the Chinese government disrupted the demonstration. This would lead to a series of violent anti-Chinese riots across Tibet and eventually the world, including the U.S. 

May 22, 2009

Dale Neumann, and later his wife Leilani Neuman, was convicted of reckless homicide in Wisconsin after their daughter died when they sought faith-healing rather than medical treatment for her condition. The conviction of the Pentecostal couple was later upheld by the Supreme Court

September 11, 2010

Thousands of anti-Muslim protesters in Lowertown Manhattan gather to protest the proposed opening of a mosque near the site of the 9/11/2001 destruction of the world trade center towers by Muslim extremists. 

June 2, 2011

Mitt Romney announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, becoming the first Morman to run for President.

November 2,  2011

Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for satirizing Mohammad, prompting much discussion in the U.S. of the freedom-of-speech vs. religion debate. 

May 9, 2012

Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to declare support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

November 6, 2012

Maine, Maryland, and Washington become\ the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.

March 13, 2013

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

March 19, 2014

Fred Phelps died of natural causes shortly before midnight on March 19, 2014. Phelps was the notorious leader of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, made famous by their highly public and hateful protests again homosexuality.

January 7,  2015

Two Islamist gunmen forced their way into the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and shot to death twelve staff members as retribution for the newspaper's history of satirical treatment of the prophet Mohammed. 

January 16, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court, in review of four separate cases, ruled that states do not have the right to outlaw same-sex marriage, effectively making gay marriage legal across the U.S.

May 7, 2017

Minnesota became the home to the first Satanic monument erected by on public property in the city of Belle Plaine, where officials have designated an area to free speech.

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "History of American Religion:1600 to 2017." Learn Religions, Oct. 14, 2021, learnreligions.com/history-of-american-religion-timeline-4079964. Cline, Austin. (2021, October 14). History of American Religion:1600 to 2017. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/history-of-american-religion-timeline-4079964 Cline, Austin. "History of American Religion:1600 to 2017." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/history-of-american-religion-timeline-4079964 (accessed March 23, 2023).