Saturday, June 29, 2013

Religious Intolerance

The forces of religious intolerance have been evident in America since the time of early European settlement. Yet out of the experience of that intolerance our founding fathers created an understanding of religious freedom and embedded it in the constitution as part of the first amendment.

George Washington addressed the Jewish congregation at Newport, Road Island when anti-Semitic feeling ran high. He said, “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 everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be no one to make him afraid.”

From our founding we have been a nation of predominantly protestant Christians but we have not been a “Christian Nation.” That is no one religion has been officially recognized over any other religion. People of all religious faiths are permitted to assemble and worship together as they please. We note that Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Deist or non-religious are all welcome to enjoy religious freedom here. That is a great thing about America.

The ugly other side of the coin is that among people in this country ignorant religious intolerance has occasionally run rampant. Until after World War II there was a pronounced anti-Jewish sentiment here. As late as 1939 twenty thousand people gathered in New York with banners that read, “Stop Jewish Domination of America.” When John Kennedy ran for president the dirty trick campaign wanted to stop the alien Romanist from giving power to the Pope in the Whitehouse.

The same tired arguments are used over and over against what ever religion is targeted:

The tenets of [?name the religion] are opposed to the values of America.
[?name the religion] have undue influence with American elites.
[?name the religion] integration into America is a veiled foreign invasion.

Fear of the different should never cause us to hate and be hated because of our personal religious beliefs.

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