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Religion and American Culture


Can religious organizations use American trademark law to assert control over the name of a religion? Further, what is the relationship between a religious organization as guarantor of fundamental spiritual truths and the signs by which it is known? To answer these questions, this article traces the history and role of trademarks in American religion with a focus on Christian Science's faith-branding strategy. This narrative explores the religious use of trademarks as an emergent strategy in the early twentieth century to manage religious practice through brand management and trademark law. Using a combination of archival research and legal analysis, this article explores legal debates about the place of trademarks in American religion followed by a close analysis of the Church of Christ, Scientist—an American religious organization “discovered and founded” by Mary Baker Eddy in the late nineteenth century—which is exemplary in the way it strategically utilized branding and marking strategies as a means of distinguishing Christian Science within a diverse marketplace of competing turn-of-the-century spiritual practices. This article argues that religious trademarks, while controversial, can be used to secure legal authority over licensed Churches, teachings, and materials in lieu of established Church hierarchy. This article interrogates the nature and origins of religious trademark strategies to demonstrate that religious organizations like the Church of Christ, Scientist could operate as particularly savvy users of the law to establish spiritual authority via control of the religious name.

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This article was published Open Access thanks to a transformative agreement between Milner Library and Cambridge University Press.




First published in Religion and American Culture, 33, no. 2 (Summer 2023): 183 - 219.

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (,which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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