The United States is unique among nations in claiming a heritage of religious freedom and a mission to spread it overseas. This is difficult to dispute. What has become hotly disputed is how this is to be regarded.
An “orthodox” view holds that the United States has played a special role—a providential part, as some would have it—in carrying a universal message of religious freedom to the world. First, American colonies were havens for religious refugees; then the American founding was a milestone for constitutional norms of religious freedom; then, over the subsequent two centuries, the United States became a haven for religious people unwelcome elsewhere: Baptists, Mormons, Mennonites, Muslims, Amish, Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.Read the rest of Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power.