Presentation Title

Enemies, Aliens, Socialists, Spies: State Surveillance and Adventism in America during World War I

Presenter Status

Ph.D. Candidate, Religious History

Presentation Type

Plenary Presentation

Location

Buller Hall, Room 250

Start Date

22-5-2019 7:00 PM

End Date

22-5-2019 8:00 PM

Presentation Abstract

This presentation focuses on the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during its first decade of operation. It was during this formative period that “some of the patterns of its interaction with religious communities began to take shape.” Seventh-day Adventism was among the first religious bodies to be surveilled by the Bureau. During World War I, scores of Adventists, both lay and clergy, along with many of their institutions, were regularly watched by government agents and their associates. State agents secretly infiltrated the denomination's churches and camp meetings, intercepted and confiscated their telegrams, letters, and packages, harassed and imprisoned colporteurs, confiscated and destroyed numerous publications, and forced leaders to revise and republish several books and tracts. The federal government targeted Adventists because of their apocalyptic views, emphasis on non-combatantcy, supposed religious fanaticism, and racial demographics. Previous to this research, historians were unaware that the state intentionally and systematically surveilled the Adventist Church throughout WWI. Not only does this presentation reveal this information for the first time, but it also “bears directly on important questions about state security, the separation of church and state, civil liberties . . . and the treatment of political dissent.”

Biographical Sketch

Kevin M. Burton (Ph.D. Candidate, Florida State University) concentrates his research on Seventh-day Adventist history, with particular interest in the topics of race and gender, apocalypticism, and politics and the state. He has lectured at Andrews University, developed a course for Griggs University, taught at Florida State University, and is currently an Instructor in the History and Political Studies Department at Southern Adventist University. He has presented numerous academic papers at conferences and published several journal articles, academic book reviews, and encyclopedia entries. His M.A. thesis is titled, “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-Person Leadership” and some of his recent publications include, “God’s Last Choice: Overcoming Ellen White’s Gender and Women in Ministry During the Fundamentalist Era,” and “Cracking the Whip to Make a Perfect Church: The Purge of the Battle Creek on April 6, 1870.” His Ph.D. dissertation explores Adventist political involvement in the abolition movement and Civil War. He lives in Collegedale, Tennessee, with his wife Sarah, daughter Adelia, and dog Rouge.

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May 22nd, 7:00 PM May 22nd, 8:00 PM

Enemies, Aliens, Socialists, Spies: State Surveillance and Adventism in America during World War I

Buller Hall, Room 250

This presentation focuses on the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during its first decade of operation. It was during this formative period that “some of the patterns of its interaction with religious communities began to take shape.” Seventh-day Adventism was among the first religious bodies to be surveilled by the Bureau. During World War I, scores of Adventists, both lay and clergy, along with many of their institutions, were regularly watched by government agents and their associates. State agents secretly infiltrated the denomination's churches and camp meetings, intercepted and confiscated their telegrams, letters, and packages, harassed and imprisoned colporteurs, confiscated and destroyed numerous publications, and forced leaders to revise and republish several books and tracts. The federal government targeted Adventists because of their apocalyptic views, emphasis on non-combatantcy, supposed religious fanaticism, and racial demographics. Previous to this research, historians were unaware that the state intentionally and systematically surveilled the Adventist Church throughout WWI. Not only does this presentation reveal this information for the first time, but it also “bears directly on important questions about state security, the separation of church and state, civil liberties . . . and the treatment of political dissent.”