Throughout its history, the labor movement has defended the constitutional right to religious freedom. During the 19th century, religious leaders often rejected this plea and joined the opposition to unions. Their perspective began to change at the end of the century when Pope Leo XIII issued a letter to all Catholic bishops defending the right of workers to organize, leading to a growing corps of “labor priests.” At the same time, the pro-labor “social gospel” movement arose among Protestants. By the 1920s, many Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish organizations denounced low wages, dangerous conditions and anti-unionism.
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