In San Francisco during the 1870s, conflicts over public schools, immigration, and the bounds of citizenship exacerbated long-simmering tensions between Protestants and Catholics. A surging anti-Catholic movement in the city—never before studied by scholars—marked Catholics as racially and religiously inferior. While promising to unite, anti-Catholicism actually exposed splits within Protestant San Francisco as it became utilized by opposing sides in debates over the place of racially marked groups in church and society. Considered neither fully white nor fully Christian, many Irish Catholics in turn demonized Chinese immigrants to establish their own credentials as patriotic white Christians. By the early 1880s the rising anti-Chinese movement had eclipsed tensions between Catholics and Protestants, creating new coalitions around Christian whiteness rather than broad-based interracial Protestantism.

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