This Week in Christian History: Martin Niemöller Dies, Religious Instruction Ban, America's 1st Religious Magazine

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(Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)Visitors stand in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017.

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, telling tribulations, inspirational progress, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week, Mar. 4-10, in Church history. They include the death of Martin Niemoller, the publication of America's first religious magazine, and a Supreme Court ruling against religious instruction in public schools.

America's First Religious Magazine Released - March 5, 1743

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(Photo: Public Domain)Popular eighteenth century evangelist George Whitefield, (1714-1770).

This week marks the anniversary of when The Christian History, colonial America's first magazine devoted primarily to religious issues, was published.

Printed in Boston and released every Saturday, The Christian History was a byproduct of the First Great Awakening, a time of large-scale spiritual revival in the British colonies of North America.

"The Christian History was modeled on revival magazines such as [George Whitefield's] Weekly History in London and William Macculloch's Glasgow Weekly History in Scotland," explained historian Lisa Smith in a 2012 book.

"Most issues of the Christian History contained a single revival or conversion narrative from a New England pastor, although sometimes a congregation in the Middle Colonies was featured, along with news of the revival from abroad."

Martin Niemöller Dies - March 6, 1984

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jan Arkesteijn)Martin Niemöller(1892-1984), famed anti-Nazi German theologian.

This week marks the anniversary of the death of Martin Niemöller, a German theologian who was renowned for his anti-Nazi views.

Founder of Germany's Confessing Church and a former president of the World Council of Churches, Niemöller is most remembered for his famous "first they came" statement.

The poetic statement of self-blame over not speaking out against oppression remains an oft-quoted remarks in American politics. While the exact wording is disputed, the poem is generally rendered as follows:

"First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Finally, they came for me and there was no one left to speak out."

Supreme Court Rules Against Religious Instruction in Public Schools - March 8, 1948

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This week marks the anniversary of when the United States Supreme Court ruled against sectarian religious instruction at public school during the school day.

Known as McCollum v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against an Illinois school district's program of allowing external religious instructors to teach children during school hours on school property.

"This is beyond all question a utilization of the tax- established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith. And it falls squarely under the ban of the First Amendment," read the majority opinion, authored by Justice Hugo Black.

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