Prominent American Religious - Events By Date

Plymouth Plantation (12/16/1620)

Plymouth Plantation was a North American colony settled in 1620 by English Separatists, later known as Pilgrims, who desired to practice their own religion freely.

Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630)

In 1630, a group of Puritans, led by John Winthrop, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony after fleeing religious persecution in England.

Roger Williams Founds Providence, Rhode Island (6/1/1636)

In 1636, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, which became known for its religious tolerance and deregulation of religious behavior.

Rhode Island Royal Charter (7/8/1663)

In 1663, the Rhode Island Royal Charter made a unified government in the colony possible, acknowledged American Indian land rights, and declared religious toleration.

Salem Witch Trials (2/1/1692-5/1/1693)

During the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693), citizens accused one another of witchcraft, leading to mass hysteria and the imprisonment/death of approximately 170 community members.

The First Great Awakening (1733-1770)

The First Great Awakening (1730s-1770s) was a series of religious revivals that propelled the expansion of evangelical denominations in the colonies.

George Whitefield's First American Preaching Tour (1739-1740)

George Whitefield's preaching tour (1739-1740) helped propel his career as the preeminent revivalist of the First Great Awakening.

Jonathan Edwards Preaches 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' (7/8/1741)

Jonathan Edwards's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741) was one of the foundational texts of the First Great Awakening.

Touro Synagogue (1763)

Touro Synagogue was dedicated in 1763 in Newport, R.I. It is the oldest dedicated synagogue in America.

Virginia's Religious Disestablishment (1/16/1786)

In 1786, the Virginia legislature passed a bill by Thomas Jefferson ending the Anglican Church's formal establishment as the state religion.

First Convent of Nuns in America (1790)

The first Catholic convent in America was founded in 1790 in Maryland by four contemplative Discalced Carmelite Nuns who came from a convent in Belgium.

The Second Great Awakening (1790-1840)

The Second Great Awakening(s) (1790s-1840s) fueled the rise of an evangelical Protestant majority in antebellum America, giving rise to new denominations and social reform organizations.

Cane Ridge Camp Meeting (1801)

Barton Stone organized the Cane Ridge camp meeting (1801), the largest and most famous religious revival of the Second Great Awakening.

Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1/1/1802)

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson's letter contained the phrase "a wall of separation between Church and State," important in later legal interpretations of the first amendment.

African Methodist Episcopal Church (1816)

In 1816, the African Methodist Episcopal Church formed after years of unequal treatment with white Methodists. It is the oldest existing African-American denomination in the U.S.

Charles Finney's Rochester Revival (9/1/1830-3/1/1831)

Charles Finney's Rochester Revival (1830-1831) played a foundational role for the more widespread revivalism and conversions of the 1830s and 1840s.

Nat Turner's Rebellion (8/21/1831-8/23/1831)

Nat Turner’s rebellion (1831) is the most famous slave revolt in American history.

First LDS Temple (Kirtland) (3/27/1836)

Joseph Smith founded the first Latter-day Saints temple in Kirtland, Ohio, on March 27, 1836.

Death of Joseph Smith (6/27/1844)

An angry mob broke into Joseph Smith's jail cell and killed him on June 27, 1844. Smith became a martyr at the age of 38.

Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1845)

In 1845, the contentious issue of American slavery divided the Methodist Episcopal Church into Northern and Southern denominations.

Southern Baptist Convention Founded (5/8/1845-5/12/1845)

The Southern Baptist Convention (1845) resulted from a split between Northern and Southern Baptists over slavery. It is now the largest Protestant denomination in America.

Utah (7/24/1847)

In 1847, Brigham Young led the Mormons into Utah after facing persecution at home. The land was considered a Mormon "Zion."

First Buddhist Temples Built (1853-1889)

In the 1850s-1880s, Chinese and Japanese immigrants brought Buddhism to America as they searched for work in Hawaii's plantations and California's gold rush.

Theosophical Society Founded (11/17/1875)

Founded in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society popularized such Eastern tenets as karma and reincarnation in a new religious movement emphasizing spiritual evolution.

First Salvation Army Meeting in America (3/14/1880)

The Salvation Army conducted its first formal meeting in the United States in New York City in 1880.

Church of God (Cleveland, TN) (8/19/1886)

The Church of God (Cleveland, TN) was founded in 1886 and is the oldest Pentecostal denomination in the United States.

Publication of Encyclical Rerum Novarum (5/15/1891)

Rerum Novarum, an 1891 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on protecting the working class, is a foundational text in modern Catholic social thought.

World Parliament of Religions (8/1/1893-10/1/1893)

In 1893, the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago introduced many non-Christian faiths to America -- including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Jainism, Shinto and Taoism.

Church of God in Christ (1897)

The Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 in Mississippi. It is the oldest and largest black Pentecostal body in the United States.

Hindu Temple Established in San Francisco (1/7/1906)

On Jan. 7, 1906, Indian-born Swami Trigunatita helped build one of the first Hindu temples of the western world in San Francisco.

William Seymour and Azusa Street Revival (4/9/1906-1/1/1915)

The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915) was a defining event for early Pentecostalism and functioned as the catalyst to the growth of American Pentecostalism.

Publication of Scofield Reference Bible (1909)

The Scofield Reference Bible, first published by Oxford University Press in 1909, would sell two million copies by the end of World War II.

Assemblies of God Founded (4/1/1914)

The Assemblies of God started with a handful of Pentecostal ministers in Hot Springs, Arkansas in April 1914, but would grow into a global phenomenon.

Scopes Trial (7/9/1925-7/21/1925)

The Scopes Trial (1925) highlighted the tension between literal interpretations of creation accounts in the Bible and evolutionary theory in the 20th century.

Al Smith Presidential Campaign (11/6/1928)

Alfred E. "Al" Smith became the first Catholic nominee for president when he ran as a Democrat in 1928 against Herbert Hoover.

First Purpose-Built Mosque (1929)

In 1929, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants constructed the first purpose-built mosque in America in Ross, N.D., to serve their small community of Muslims.

Nation of Islam Founded (7/4/1930)

On July 4, 1930, W.D. Fard founded the Nation of Islam, one of the most radical and militant religious movements of the 20th century.

National Association of Evangelicals Founded (4/7/1942-4/9/1942)

The National Association of Evangelicals was founded in 1942 to provide representation for evangelicals in Washington, D.C., and with the broadcasting industry.

Everson v. Board of Education (2/10/1947)

In this 1947 case, the Supreme Court first applied the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (i.e. no law establishing religion) to the states.

Billy Graham's Los Angeles Crusade (9/25/1949-11/20/1949)

Billy Graham's Los Angeles Crusade (1949) catapulted the southern evangelist into the national spotlight for the first time.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (2/15/1957)

Founded in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) believed that racial equality was a Christian imperative and utilized non-violent protests to combat racism.

Dennis Bennett's Charismatic Outpouring (4/3/1960)

In 1960, Dennis Bennett's public announcement of his baptism by the Holy Spirit led to the Second Wave of Charismatic Christianity in America.

Election of John F. Kennedy (11/8/1960)

John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic President of the United States when he defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 election.

Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) (10/11/1962-12/8/1965)

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was a Catholic ecumenical council that attempted to reconcile Catholicism with the challenges of modernity.

Abington School District v. Schempp (6/17/1963)

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that required Bible readings and recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional.

Sherbert v. Verner (6/17/1963)

This 1963 case introduced the "Sherbert test"; the government must show that burdening the individual's practice of religion is based on a compelling state interest.

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (1965)

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (i.e., Hart-Celler Act) permitted more Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu immigrants into the United States, changing the U.S. religious landscape.

Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration (12/7/1965)

The Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of 1965 revoked the mutual excommunications of 1054 that led to the Great Schism.

Sojourners Magazine (1971)

Sojourners magazine, founded in 1971, promoted a greater prominence of liberal Christian views on social issues within the evangelical community.

Lemon v. Kurtzman (6/28/1971)

This 1971 ruling established an influential precedent (the "Lemon test") for whether a law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Election of Jimmy Carter (11/2/1976)

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was the first self-proclaimed "born again" Christian elected president of the United States.

Jerry Falwell Helps Found the Moral Majority (6/1/1979)

With the help of Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell in 1979, the founding of the Moral Majority would later influence Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.

Marjorie Matthews Elected Bishop (7/17/1980)

Marjorie Matthews was elected bishop in the United Methodist church in 1980. She was the first female elected bishop of any mainline Christian church.

Lynch v. Donnelly (3/5/1984)

This case interpreted the Establishment Clause as an accommodation between church and state, not an absolute separation of the two.

Allegheny County v. ACLU (7/3/1989)

This 1989 case dealt with religious holiday symbols on government property and found that a combination of religious symbols does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Employment Division v. Smith (4/17/1990)

This 1990 case determined that citizens could not be exempt from generally applicable and religiously neutral laws because those laws burdened their exercise of religion.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (11/16/1993)

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allowed the "compelling state interest" test to apply to federal level, not just the state level.

Million Man March (10/16/1995)

The Million Man March in 1995, organized by the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, was the largest gathering of African Americans in U.S. history.

City of Boerne v. Flores (6/25/1997)

In this 1997 case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had overstepped its constitutional powers in enacting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Catholic Church Abuse Scandal (2002)

The Catholic Church has recently been the subject of a widespread scandal involving Catholic officials accused of sexual abuse and cover-ups.

Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign (11/6/2012)

Mitt Romney became the first Mormon nominee for president when he ran as a Republican in 2012 against Barack Obama.

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