The Cincinnati Bible War of 1869-1872: Law, Confessionalism, and the State in Nineteenth-Century America.


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study looks at the Cincinnati Bible War, which began in 1869 when the school board removed the Bible from the public schools and ended when the pro-Bible forces lost a lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1872. The war is usually fitted into the standard legal narrative of a clear historical progress towards a more perfect separation of church and state. This study reveals the inadequacies of this narrative by demonstrating two things. First, the strength of competing theories of church and state—liberal, evangelical, Catholic—in the late nineteenth century. And second, the continuation of religious training in the public schools through other means, including poetry memorization programs.