Faith on Trial, by Peter Wallner
HERESY TRIAL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
‘Faith on Trial: Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science and the First Amendment’
Pierce biographer details ‘trial of the century’
The First Amendment was on trial 100 years ago when Mary Baker Eddy was in court to defend herself and the religion she founded, Christian Science.
Peter Wallner, biographer of President Franklin Pierce, has released his latest book, Faith on Trial: Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science and the First Amendment, that examines the sensational trial that dominated international media coverage in 1907. The book is published by Plaidswede Publishing Co. of Concord.
In Eddy v. Frye, the Christian Science founder, who resided at Pleasant View in Concord, challenged her son and adopted son who attempted to take possession of her and her wealth and remove her from the clutches of church leaders. The case drew more national media attention to New Hampshire than any other event in the state’s history, including the election of Franklin Pierce as president, the Christa McAuliffe Challenger disaster, and the Portsmouth Treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War.
This largely forgotten case, in Merrimack Superior Court, became a heresy trial as Eddy’s religious views and the doctrine of Christian Science became the basis of the plaintiff’s charge that Eddy was insane and incapable of caring for herself.
The question of religious toleration was fought over by every major newspaper in the country for nearly a year in 1907 at the height of the period known for a muckraking press and yellow journalism. The case against the most famous woman in America at that time also attracted the attention of other famous Americans including Mark Twain, Joseph Pulitzer and Willa Cather.
In her later years, Eddy was accused of being a fraud, of being dead or dying and of being secretly married. She feared the impact of what she called "malicious animal magnetism" -- the evil thoughts of her enemies, upon her and her church.