A lot has been said in presidential campaigning over the past few months about religion and religious freedom. Some candidates just can't quite get it right, though. They talk about biblical teachings and how they should be applied to government decisons.
This Presidents Day, why don't we go back in time to our very first president (one of those we are celebrating this very day). George Washington understood the importance of religious freedom and that the United States is not a Christian nation. The United States is a nation where everyone is free to practice or not practice the religion of her choice.
He made that constitutional guarantee very clear in his famous 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue of Newport, RI:
"For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support," Washington wrote to the Jewish congregation.
Other early presidents also made it clear that government-endorsed religion has no place in our nation. Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists coined the phrase "wall of separation between church and state."And James Madison made a great case for religious freedom -- indeed freedom from religion -- in his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," when it was proposed that Virginians be taxed to fund Christian teachers.
So why are so many trying to rewrite history?
Faith is a business our government has no role in supporting, dictating or funding. That is clear.
The ACLU stands firmly behind this basic right. We hope you do, too.