The Federal Bureau of Investigation has had a long and tortuous relationship with religion over almost the entirety of its existence. As early as 1917, the Bureau began to target religious communities and groups it believed were hotbeds of anti-American politics. Whether these religious communities were pacifist groups that opposed American wars, or religious groups that advocated for white supremacy or direct conflict with the FBI, the Bureau has infiltrated and surveilled religious communities that run the gamut of American religious life.
The FBI and Religion recounts this fraught and fascinating history, focusing on key moments in the Bureau’s history. Starting from the beginnings of the FBI before World War I, moving through the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, up to 9/11 and today, this book tackles questions essential to understanding not only the history of law enforcement and religion, but also the future of religious liberty in America.
Sylvester A. Johnson is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University.
Steven P. Weitzman is the Abraham Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.
"The story of the FBI and religion is not a series of isolated mishaps, argues a new book of essays edited by Steven Weitzman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Sylvester A. Johnson, a professor at Northwestern University. Over its 109 years of existence, these historians and their colleagues argue, the Bureau has shaped American religious history through targeted investigations and religiously tinged rhetoric about national security."—The Atlantic
"Based on my government experience and knowledge, I find this book one of the best I have read in quite a while. Interesting, innovative, and insightful."—Loch K. Johnson, Regents Professor of International Affairs, University of Georgia
"A devastating portrait of the FBI as a regulatory agent in the history of religions. The authors prove that the FBI does not just surveil and capture criminals. It defines, classifies, and punishes those who organize collectively and speak prophetically in modern America."—Kathryn Lofton, Yale University