America’s First Catholic President

March 22, 2017 1:30 PM
Richmond Salons III-IV
University Student Commons

America’s First Catholic President: The Presidential Election of 1908 and the Backlash That Followed
Dr. John Kneebone, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History

Fake news and rumors caused many Americans after the presidential election of 1908 to fear that William Howard Taft was the agent of a foreign religious power, the Roman Catholic Church, which was intent on controlling the United States.

Anti-Catholicism roiled the Taft administration, and remained a potent presence in American political culture in the decades that followed. The issues of 1908 and after—religious liberty, political proscription, assimilation, and pluralism—echo still today.