Religious Freedom Means Nothing If Religion Means Nothing

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Posted: Sep 21, 2022 12:01 AM

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In August of 1790, President George Washington visited Rhode Island, which a few months earlier had ratified the U.S. Constitution.

Among those who welcomed the new president was the Hebrew Congregation of Rhode Island, founded in 1763. Now known as the Touro Synagogue, it is the oldest standing synagogue in the nation.

The synagogue’s representative wrote to the president, expressing gratitude that Jews in Rhode Island, in the newly formed United States of America, lived, in contrast to their co-religionists in other parts of the world, with “invaluable rights as free citizens.”

Washington wrote to the congregation, “May the Children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

A little more than a year later, the guarantee of religious freedom would be formally enshrined in the Constitution with the

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