Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Religious tolerance, then and now

Washington Post
August 17, 2010

To bigotry no sanction.
George Washington

Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.
Sarah Palin

Two hundred twenty years ago today, the Jews of Newport, R.I., wrote a proclamation for President George Washington on his visit to their synagogue the next day.

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens," the Jews wrote to their famous visitor, we now "behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People . . . generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental Machine.

Washington's reply the next day, a simple letter titled "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport," set a standard for religious tolerance that guided the nation through two centuries. Here is that message in its entirety -- along with some alternative thoughts on the topic occasioned by the proposed mosque near Ground Zero:


While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.