One night in 1834, renowned Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher delivered a sermon in Boston railing against the "despotic character and hostile designs of popery upon our country."
Not far away that night, a mob stormed an Ursuline Sisters convent and burned it to the ground.
It was never proved that the sermon incited the attack. Still, Lynn S. Neal, a religion professor at Wake Forest University, maintains that Beecher's caustic rhetoric contributed to the violence by "weaponizing" the prevailing anti-Catholic bias.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States has evoked comparisons to...