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YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Young Harris College Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Kathryn Montalbano recently published her first book, “Government Surveillance of Religious Expression: Mormons, Quakers, and Muslims in the United States.”

According to Dr. Montalbano, her book analyzes government monitoring of Mormons of the Territory of Utah in the 1870s and 1880s for polygamy, Quakers of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) from the 1940s to the 1960s for communist infiltration, and Muslims of Brooklyn, N.Y., from 2002 to 2013 for suspected terrorism.

“My core argument can be put simply,” said Dr. Montalbano. “Beginning in the 1870s, United States government agencies have investigated not only whether certain religious groups were subversive, but also what their members believed. In doing so, they have helped legitimize certain forms of religious expression over others. Over time, government officials shifted from monitoring past conduct to predicting future threats when investigating religiously motivated behaviors.

“This shift has been hastened by the waning of Protestant cultural predominance and the changing position of authority within the government itself. The growing tolerance of different religions has created its own tensions within our society about what is or is not religious. Over time, the boundary between religious belief and secular conduct faded. This shift raises critical questions about the long-term repercussions of government surveillance of religion.

“Together, these case studies form a new framework for discussions of the historical and contemporary monitoring of religion. They show that government surveillance is less predictable and monolithic than we might assume. Therefore, this book will be of great interest to scholars and non-scholars alike examining United States religion, history and politics, as well as surveillance and communication studies.”

In his review of the book for “Reading Religion,” Michael McLaughlin of Florida State University wrote, “While Montalbano makes her professional home in communication studies, she deftly engages with religious studies scholarship, and scholars such as David Sehat, Saba Mahmood and Talal Asad richly inform her work. Her book is principally concerned with questions that will resonate with religion scholars investigating issues of secularity, surveillance and the American state—and scholars of these topics would do well to consider the insights Montalbano offers.”

Dr. Montalbano earned a B.A. in English literature with a minor in sociology from Haverford College, followed by an M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in communications from Columbia University. She joined the YHC faculty in 2018.

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has three academic divisions: Arts and Humanities, Professional Studies, and Mathematics, Science and Technology, with more than 1,400 students enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The historic campus in Young Harris, Ga. has completed major campus improvements to accommodate the College’s growth. LEED-certified campus improvements include the 121,000-square-foot Rollins Campus Center, residence facilities and a 57,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the prestigious Peach Belt Conference. For more information, visit