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The FBI and Religion

Faith and National Security before and after 9/11

Sylvester A. Johnson (Editor), Steven Weitzman (Editor)


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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.
List of Illustrations

Introduction. “True Faith and Allegiance”— Religion and the FBI
Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

1. American Religion and the Rise of Internal Security: A Prologue
Kathryn Gin Lum and Lerone A. Martin

2. “If God be for you, who can be against you?” Persecution and Vindication of the Church of God in Christ during World War I
Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.

3. The FBI and the Moorish Science Temple of America, 1926–1960
Sylvester A. Johnson

4. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the Religious Cold War
Dianne Kirby

5. Apostles of Deceit: Ecumenism, Fundamentalism, Surveillance, and the Contested Loyalties of Protestant Clergy during the Cold War
Michael J. McVicar

6. The FBI and the Catholic Church
Regin Schmidt

7. Hoover’s Judeo-Christians: Jews, Religion, and Communism in the Cold War
Sarah Imhoff

8. Policing Public Morality: Hoover’s FBI, Obscenity, and Homosexuality
Douglas M. Charles

9. The FBI and the Nation of Islam
Karl Evanzz

10. Dreams and Shadows: Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Sylvester A. Johnson

11. A Vast Infiltration: Mormonism and the FBI
Matthew Bowman

12. The FBI’s “Cult War” against the Branch Davidians
Catherine Wessinger

13. The FBI and American Muslims after September
Michael Barkun

14. Policing Kashmiri Brooklyn
Junaid Rana

15. Allies against Armageddon? The FBI and the Academic Study of Religion
Steven Weitzman

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

"This fine book will be useful in courses that seek to examine relations between religion, society, and efforts at social control . . . Highly recommended."

"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

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