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A letter’s journey, from founding father to religious question
The battle over Washington's letter to a Newport, Rhode Island, congregation rages on.
September 30th, 2011
07:08 AM ET

A letter’s journey, from founding father to religious question

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Standing over the letter, one would never know its unique story. Worth millions at auction, reading it unveils that it stands as a testament to religious freedom in America. But as it stares up, idly sitting there, the stories of “erotic” behavior, twisted ownership and historic encounters are lost on those lucky enough to see it.

The primary spirit of the letter is clear – the United States government will assure religious freedom, giving “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

George Washington wrote those words in a 1790 letter to the the congregation of a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. He was hoping to reassure the congregation that the budding government of the United States would allow free expression to all religions. Since then, Jews in America have flourished.

The letter is addressed “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island,” but it is kept from public view, which hurts and angers those who think private ownership defies the letter’s original sentiment.

George Washington

“The letter starts off to the Hebrew congregation of Newport, Rhode Island,” said Mordechai Eskovitz, rabbi of the Touro Synagogue in Newport. “It was meant for the congregation. It is addressed to the congregation.”

Eskovitz has been the rabbi of Touro for 16 years. He said the almost unanimous sentiment in his congregation is that the spirit of the letter, which he said was intended for the community and not one person, is being dishonored.

“Jews at that time were going through such turmoil and finally they found a safe haven in the United States,” said Eskovitz. “This letter, and its sentiment, is something too valuable for an individual. It is for everyone.”

Washington signed the letter on the back. His signature gives it monetary value, but his words give the letter even more value, experts say.

For the last nine years, people have been unable to see the letter. It sits in a sterile Maryland office park a few hundred feet from FedEx Field. It is in climate-controlled, protective storage. However, for those who make an appointment, it is presented on a mahogany table, devoid of protective casing.

From a hallway adorned with the storage facility's logo, workers can be seen at their computers, almost oblivious to the document in the small conference room. Though there are gadgets on desks that you wouldn’t see in most offices - a seismograph, for example - an unaware observer could mistake this place for another run of the mill office.

But this office holds documents behind lock and key that libraries and museums would love to display.

How did the letter travel from George Washington’s pen to this suburban Washington office building? The journey's twists and turns highlight a community's resolve to hold on to the letter's sentiment, if not the letter itself.

From Washington to Seixas

Moses Seixas, who was president of Touro Synagogue when Washington visited Newport after the Constitution was ratified, sparked Washington's letter. The oldest synagogue in the United States, Touro was built in 1763.

Mary Thompson, the research historian at Mount Vernon, said when Washington became president, he tried to visit every state. During his visit to Rhode Island, Washington came to Touro and was read a letter from Seixas. After he returned home, the president sent his reply.

The fact that Washington visited Rhode Island was a big deal in its own right. The fact that he visited Touro to this day astounds worshipers in Newport.

“It is a sign of how important the Jews were that they were able to meet the president,” said Jonathan Sarna, professor at Brandeis University and a pre-eminent scholar on Jewish-American history.

According to Sarna, the Jewish community in Newport was slowly dwindling at the time, losing residents to larger cities like New York and Boston. “Because the community was so small, apparently the letter (from Washington) was actually held in the Seixas family after the visit,” Sarna said.

The situation became so grim for Touro that in the early 19th century, the synagogue was forced to close. In an ironic twist, after losing people to bigger cities, Touro sent some of its scrolls and other valuables to its mother synagogue, Shearith Israel Synagogue in New York.

The letter, however, was not sent to Shearith Israel.

“You would have thought they got the letter,” Sarna said. “The letter was many times reprinted, people at the time knew it was a significant letter.”

The closure of Touro leaves a gap in the path of Washington’s letter. Touro reopened in the late 19th century, but the letter did not surface at the synagogue.

It wasn't until the early 20th century, when a squat Jewish philanthropist began publicizing his ownership of the letter, that the trail picked back up.

From Newport to New York

Howard Rubenstein had just opened a small PR office on Court Street in New York when he was invited to meet Morris Morgenstern. Morgenstern was a public person in need of a publicist and he hoped Rubenstein would fill the job.

“I went to his office and he was a diminutive person, probably 5-2 or 5-3, very short and very lively. Tremendous energy,” said Rubenstein.

At their first meeting, Morgenstern brought up a letter he had purchased, a letter signed by George Washington and addressed to the Hebrew congregation of Newport.

Rubenstein doesn't know how Morgenstern came upon the letter, but according to The Jewish Daily Forward and a 1951 New York Amsterdam News article, Morgenstern acquired the letter in 1949. From who and at what price is unknown.

Using the letter, Rubenstein devised a way for Morgenstern to increase his philanthropic giving. The duo turned viewing the letter into an honor given to prominent people who Morgenstern would get to meet. Morgenstern also would give the viewers of the letter $5,000, a large sum of money at the time, for the charity of the person's choice.

The plan worked.

Morgenstern and the letter were able to meet former President Herbert Hoover, former President Harry Truman and then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, as well as former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “The only thing I asked these people was when you greet Morris, indicate that you have read the letter and you were delighted to see it,” Rubenstein said.

Morris Morgenstern, center, showed a number of notable people his prized letter, including then-Sen. John F. Kennedy. Howard Rubenstein is at right.

According to Rubenstein, Harry Truman even hugged Morgenstern when they met and said, “I have heard all about your letter and am so excited to see it.”

After the duo stopped publicizing the letter, Rubenstein lost touch with Morgenstern. Rubenstein said he looks back on those days fondly.

“It was a very exciting time for Morris and for the country, because the publicity that it generated about a country opposed to bigotry was very important,” said Rubenstein. “I thought I was doing an important thing in those days.”

Morgenstern also believed the letter he owned was important. According to Rubenstein, Morgenstern cherished the letter so much, he would sleep with the framed letter under his bed at night and would take it almost anywhere he went. Rubenstein called the relationship “treasured.”

In 1957, Morgenstern loaned the letter to B’nai B’rith International, according to Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of the organization.

Why Morgenstern made the loan is unknown. He died in 1969.

New York to suburban Maryland

Mariaschin said former B’nai B’rith’s president Phillip Klutznick secured the loan for the organization's museum in Washington. Klutznick was a well-known Jewish leader and Jimmy Carter’s secretary of commerce. Mariaschin says it was that relationship that cemented the loan.

When CNN contacted the Morris Morgenstern Foundation, Paul Goodnough, the foundation's accountant, said he didn't think this “very private family” would like to talk about the letter.

“If they reach out to you, they want to talk. If they don’t, it is a no comment,” Goodnough said.

The Morgenstern Foundation did not contact CNN.

B’nai B’rith displayed the letter from 1957 to 2002 in its Washington museum, Mariaschin said. The organization downsized in 2002, moving to a smaller office on K Street, an office with no street level location for a museum. Though the organization maintains a reservations-only gallery in its current space, the letter’s unique storage needs were too much for an office environment, so B’nai B’rith contracted Artex, the warehouse in suburban Maryland, to store the letter.

“We are in active discussion now with several institutions about partnering in terms of the display of this very nice collection that the Klutznick museum has,” said Mariaschin.

Since the letter went into storage in 2002, a number of prominent libraries and museums have asked to display it for B’nai B’rith and the Morris Morgenstern Foundation.

Among them was the Library of Congress, which asked to display the letter during a 2004 exhibit celebrating the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in America. Jennifer Gavin, director of communications at the Library of Congress, said the letter was requested but not obtained.

“It’s not unusual for institutions like the library to reach out to owners of rare documents for such purposes and find that, for a variety of reasons, the loan can’t be accomplished,” said Gavin.

Sarna helped advise the Library of Congress’ celebration of Jewish life. He said the people he worked with were astonished by the rejection.

“Usually people would die just to be invited to display their property,” Sarna said. “If the Library of Congress wanted something of mine, they would have it the next day with insured mail.”

This part of the letter's history distresses Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward. The unwillingness to display the letter, she says, hides not only a critical piece of Jewish American history, but also of American history in general.

"We have flourished in America and it is largely because we have been allowed to," said Eisner. "That spirit of tolerances and acceptances was expressed so beautifully by Washington in that letter."

But where is the letter's rightful home?

Bernard Bell has become disillusioned with Touro Synagogue over the years. Twenty-five years ago, he began a scholarship program at Brown University in honor of the synagogue. Before that, he was a member.

Bell is outspoken, and without much prodding he will bluntly tell anyone who listens that he believes the Morris Morgenstern Foundation does not rightfully own the letter.

“The possession of the letter was in the hands of the congregation and I don’t believe at the time that it was sold that anyone had the right to sell it,” Bell said.

Bell said the majority of Newport Jews, especially those who have been around for quite awhile, agree with him. He said the problem is, “There is nobody in the congregation that I am aware of that has the guts to go after that letter.”

To Bell, the power of the letter is not just its historical significance, but also its monetary value.“It is the most valuable piece of work outside of the synagogue that we have. No one had the right to sell it and it shouldn't sit in the warehouse,” Bell said.

The letter has not been valued lately, but Dana Linett, a colonial documents expert, said the letter could be worth millions.

“I would think that the Touro is a million-dollar or better, it might bring multiple millions, depending on the condition and how it reads,” Linett said.

Linett said he has seen documents like the Washington letter have what he called a “runaway sale.” When a group so identifies with the document, the sale at auction could defy actual valuation, he said. The symbolic power of the letter could mean more than money. In cases like this, Linett said he has seen documents once valued at $1.5 million shoot up to $8 million in a matter of minutes at auction.

“It is a national treasure. That is what this letter is in its truest sense,” Linett said.

Linett is not alone in valuing the letter's sentiment. John L. Loeb Jr. has put his money behind that opinion.

Loeb spent about $12 million to found the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, which opened in 2009. Since first reading the letter, Loeb said, “I have been deeply interested that everyone gets to know it. It is one of the great letters about religious freedom that has ever been written and perhaps the earliest by a head of state.” The institute, near Touro in Newport, serves that purpose by displaying a copy of the letter.

Newport is home to the Touro Synagogue, the Loeb Touro Visitors Center and the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom.

Loeb speaks excitedly about the letter’s sentiment. However, Loeb, a former ambassador to Denmark who has committed most of his philanthropic life to the letter, seems reflective when he talks about displaying only a reproduction.

Loeb said though he would like to house the original letter, it is the sentiment that is more important. It is the sentiment, not the physical letter, that moved him to build the institute.

“To me, the uniqueness of America is the acceptance of everybody,” Loeb said. “That is what made America possible. And this letter symbolizes what America is all about.”

Read George Washington's letter.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Judaism

soundoff (594 Responses)
  1. Chad

    "May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy." – George Washington

    Just awesome to be reminded that our founding fathers acknowledged the God of Abraham, and always looked to Him as the source of blessings on the country.

    October 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Archives

      Thanks Chad for the reminder that their(founding fathers) faith has been proved o'er and o'er again in their various addresses.

      Here is another snippet- "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports......' George Washington

      October 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • babore

      You misunderstand, or perhaps willfully manipulate history to make it align with your beliefs. In fact, the founding fathers acknowledged all spiritual paths, not just Abrahamic ones, as evidenced by the prolifieration of Deism within their ranks. However, you are correct in the fact that the founders adamently supported the right to practice Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. If only today's Christians could find the wisdom to allow the same.

      October 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Chad

      @babore, some one is attempting to re-write history, but it isnt me.. 🙂

      "it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate grat itude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience" – George Washington

      "is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor" – George Washington

      "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ" – George Washington

      October 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • AGuest9

      George also ordered the deaths of Native American women and children in upstate New York in 1779, as well. Very christian.

      October 1, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Les

      When will you Xtians realize that the word "god" is not a reference to Jehovah? This is especially true when not capitalized. Also the words "faith" and "religion" are generic terms covering all religions and not the exclusive province of Xtians. IT IS YOU THAT ARE REWRITING HISTORY, NOT US. We are merely continuing to use the words that describe all religions.

      You have distorted the English language to make it mean things it does not. Even then you are failing miserably and cannot see that your stupid and ill conceived rhetoric does more harm than good. It will be the true salvation of man when your hateful religion is completely wiped from our memory. A fool is born every minute and Xtianity has more than its share of fools.

      October 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      God bless Chad

      October 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Hm. Chad? There was nothing remotely Abrahamic about that quote. He might have been talking about any god. Maybe the U.S. was founded on Olympian principles and he was speaking of Apollo.

      October 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Chad

      Apollo.. LOL

      For those interested in some facts see :
      "George Washington, the Christian"
      By William Jackson Johnstone

      October 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • tallulah13

      For those interested in reading what the founding fathers said themselves about religion, check this site:

      http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

      October 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • babore

      Chad – Your response to my post is baffling because it seems to ignore what I actually wrote in order to push your simpleton argument that the founders were Atheists.

      Gee, thanks kid. Problem is, you're confusing personal / cultural persuasions of individuals with the country they were founding. They were clearly, beyond any shadow of a doubt, founding a country in which people could follow any spiritual or non-spiritual tradition they wished. The founders fought passionately to ensure Muslims, Jews, Deists, and others had as much opportunity as anyone else. Today's radical Christian / right-wing sects ignore that fact and attempt to rewrite our history as if Christianity were the national religion.

      Those people are ignorant, Chad. They are manipulative. They do not know Christ (obviously no true God would demand worship, but that's another story). Anyway, I will keep you in my prayers, Chad, that you one day find the path of Christ in your heart and turn away from this wicked path of manipulation and lies. God bless, young one.

      October 2, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • babore

      edit: I meant to write that Chad was arguing simply that the founders were NOT Atheist.

      October 2, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Chad

      Hi Babore
      I do not believe the founding fathers were deists, or atheists. Most attended Christian churches, and virtually all acknowledged God as creator. Virtually all of the founding fathers wanted a society where all people were free to worship whatever god they wanted, but that doesnt make them atheist.

      I do not believe that statement manipulates history or lies in any way. I believe it is demonstrably true.

      October 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Chad

      Babore: I should add that I'm not exactly sure what your stance is on the founding fathers,
      I took your first response to mean you disagreed with me(as you accused me of manipulation), and felt that the founding fathers were NOT Theists/Christians.

      As a Christian, I dont like this recent wave of attempts to re-write history and eradicate all acknowledgement of the God of Abraham from government and society in general. I felt you were a part of that movement, my apologies if I misunderstood in some way..

      October 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • John Richardson

      The founders clearly weren't atheists. That was almost unheard of at the time. But several were quite clearly Deist in their basic beliefs. There was no Deistic congregation to which to belong. So some had nominal affiliations with other churches, but overtly disavowed belief in such things as the divinity of Christ, the trinity or any sort of personal god.

      Yo, Chad. Did you read ANY of the website Tallulah posted?

      October 2, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • chad

      @John "Yo, Chad. Did you read ANY of the website Tallulah posted?"

      Not all, but a great deal. Outstanding info. You?

      October 3, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • ryderX

      Chad you really should do some open minded research, you will find that many of them were Diests, however, you are correct, many if not all did attend church, the reason being is they understood the importance of a "public image"!

      October 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  2. Observer

    If "none" was not an option, there would be no such thing as freedom of religion.

    October 1, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  3. angora

    I wish more of these evangelicals who have rewritten history to believe this was a Christian nation would educate themselves more about evidence like this. Even growing up in Christian schools I learned that this country was founded to allow one to worship in whatever way they chose and those who came here were escaping the persecution of integrating government and religion. We've fallen so far from that ideal.

    October 1, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Chad

      The founding fathers firmly believed that government should stay out of religion, that the government had no right to legislate religion.
      The founding fathers ALSO acknowledged God in everything they did, asking Him for blessing on this country and their leadership.

      Said simply: They believed government should stay out of religion, but never believed that God should stay out of government.

      October 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Tony

      @Chad, Right on!!!!

      October 1, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • angora

      There's a world of difference between acknowledging God or a creative force and demanding this be a Christian country. The founders did the original but not the latter. Today, fundamentalist Christians are rewriting history to exclude Islam, Judaism, Deism, Paganism, and all the other religious traditions the founders wrote about supporting. So, not so well said, Chad. A little simple for my level, actually.

      October 1, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • JohnR

      Completely wrong, Chad. Many things written by Jefferson and Madison make it screamingly clear that keeping political power out of the hands of those who presume to speak for god was a major objective. And they no doubt had the horrific memories of the Puritan revolution in England in mind as they set about the task of setting up a non-monarchic system that wouldn't turn out to be worse than what it had replaced. Ollie Cromwell and his religious loons had all but discredited the broader anti-monarchic movement with their actions.

      October 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      For those of you who want to know what the founding fathers thought of christianity, in their own words, here is a site with quotes and the sources of those quotes:

      http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

      October 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Chad

      "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God" -John Adams letter to Thomas Jefferson

      I think you're continued attempt to re-write history will fail ultimately. There is just simply to much written down.

      October 1, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Tony

      Chad sucks sh!t.

      October 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Funny. John Adams also said this:

      "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved– the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
      -letter to Thomas Jefferson

      October 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Chad

      Funny? Why?

      I'm a born again Christian, and I shudder to think what people have done in the name of Christianity.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • John Richardson

      OK, good, Chad. Now can you understand that the problem with theocracy is theocrats. You place enormous powers into the hands of PEOPLE who THINK they speak for god and you see what you get, from Cromwell's Britain to modern Iran. God doesn't rule in theocracies. People who presume to speak for him and who have many nasty habits, including a big one of killing EACH OTHER are in charge. And THAT is the problem.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Chad

      Hogwash John.
      one of atheism's greatest attempts at re-writing history, is this attempt to paint religion as the source of all evil.
      Now, many horrific things have been done in the name of religion(7%), but many MORE have been done for other reasons(93%).

      "In their Encyclopedia of Wars,[2] authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod attempt a comprehensive listing of wars in history. They doc ument 1763 wars overall, of which 123 (7%) have been classified to involve a religious conflict."

      God isnt the problem, people are.
      People arent the solution, God is.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • *frank*

      Just lol.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • John Richardson

      No kidding, Chad. I guess you missed the many posts in which I myself rebutted claims by non-beleivers that religion is the source of all or almost all evil. There are MANY clear instances of massive evil that can't be laid at religion's door. Hitler was no atheist, but he also didn't do what he did in the name of Christianity or any other religion. He did it in the name of national socialism. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were atheists and certainly SOME of the nasty things they did, eg the persecution of various religious bodies and people, were done because of the atheistic principles of communism. But ALL of it was done in the name of communism (plus of course the ever present personal ambition). And what unites ALL these cases from theocracy to atheistic communism is the belief on the part of powerful, ambitious people that they have ALL the answers and know not just what everyone else should, indeed MUST do, but what they should THINK. And they have all shown a willingness, even eagerness to persecute those who merely THINK differently.

      So the fact that theocratic thuggery is not by any means the sole source of truly grand scale horror in our history doesn't change the fact that it is a clear instance of a more general phenomenon that does hold bragging rights as the worst of what humanity has done to itself.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Oh, and Chad, you seem to have missed my main point. Yes, PEOPLE are the problem and theocracies are run by PEOPLE. The fact that these people CLAIM to be speaking and acting on behalf of god doesn't change the fact that it is people who are actually running the show. But when they either genuinely believe or at least have duped sufficiently many others into believing that their words are god's words and are therefore infallibly correct, they feel enti-tled/empowered to persecute those who contest their words. And when they either genuinely believe or have duped sufficiently many others into thinking that their deeds are directed by god, they feel justified absolutely no matter what they do. THAT is the danger in religions and other absolutists ideologies that seek political power.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Chad

      John, it seems like you spend 100% of your time fighting 7% of the problem...

      October 1, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Chad, is there no falsehood you won't glibly utter? First, even if one accepts the enumeration and categorization of wars you cited, 7% percent of wars doesn't automatically translate to 7% of the problem, since much of the problem is, as noted, what empowered people do not in time of war to people of other lands, but to their own populace. There is a LONG history of Christian tyranny in Europe.

      Next, the time I spend here is a piffle compared to how much I spend most of my time. And I have spent a lot of time debating leftists and, believe me, they get as cranky and flustered as theocratically inclined Christians do when I put much of leftism and Christianity in the same box! But I don't care how cranky anyone gets. It's simply true that the far left and the religious have a lot of history to explain – or at least they have to explain why anyone should believe that their proposed glory days to come will differ from the travesties that came before.

      Well, you wouldn't know how much time I spend debating leftists, but you should by now know how many non-believers on this blog like William Demuth, kimsland and the brown note who I take to task for their own dictatorial dreams.

      But finally, this little side discussion opened up when you appeared to admit to tallulah that you are appalled at much that has been done in the name of Christianity. I tried to make a sincere attempt to make you see the dangers of reliving some of those things if Christians with theocratic ambitions are allowed to hold sway. But in reply after reply, you immediately want to deflect attention from and minimize past Christian excesses. This leads me to wonder how sincere your reply to Tallulah was. You seem suddenly all sorts of non-appalled by things done in the name of Christianity, which leads me to wonder whether your original reply to Tallulah wasn't just a rhetorical attempt to say that John Adams's words of disdain for much of Christian hisotry mean nothing about his beliefs, since you as a born again Christian are similarly appalled, But then you dropped that sentiment like a hot potato when asked to explore its ramifications. IOW, I can't help but wonder whether you weren't being dishonest again and simply feigning distaste for much of what has been done in the name of Christianity for immediate rhetorical effect and nothing more.

      October 2, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • angora

      Chad – The core problem with your arguments is you're stuck arguing one religious sect verses the anti-God sect, and ignoring the many nuances in between that reveal a depth of spiritual wisdom in the founding fathers that goes far beyond the superficialities of fundamentalist Christianity.. That's typical of those who arrogantly claim themselves to be "born again" (by simply claiming so), but seems you're capable of more.

      October 2, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Crow

      I think the core problem in the discussion here is two-fold. First, Xtians here see the words god, religion, father of mercies, belief, faith, etc. as exclusively describing the religion of Christ. Second, Xtians are confusing the humanist viewpoints of the founding father's with Xtianity's teachings. Both viewpoints are inherently flawed and result in a misinterpretation of the founding fathers intentions' that is untruthful and very wrong.

      Unfortunately, given the mindset of most ev(il)angelicans and right wing hate mongers, educating them about the truth will not change the distorted thinking of their evil twisted minds.

      October 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Chad

      John: This is what I think:
      1. I am appalled at the things some people have done in the name of "Christianity"
      2. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that some people attempt to use those past atrocities to indict current attempts by Christians to retain acknowledgement of the God of Abraham by our government, schools and society in general.

      Those beliefs are consistent with each other.

      October 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Chad! One can't pin blame on prior horrors committed by Christians on the current flock. But the whole point of studying history, or at least one of the main points, is to learn from past mistakes. And it has been shown time and again that people who hold political power and think they speak for god and think their actions are guided by god pose a real menace to the general well being of the populace. It would be foolish for ANYONE, including Christians, not to worry that mixing god and politics will once again, as so often before, lead to the persecution not just of non-Christians, but of Christian sects who happen to be out of favor. Christians should be REAL careful what they wish for. Many of the most grievous crimes of Christian theocrats have been committed against other Christians.

      October 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Chad

      "It would be foolish for ANYONE, including Christians, not to worry that mixing god and politics will once again, "

      LOL John, as always, you have no problem at all painting everything with the brush of the Inquisition.

      d

      October 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Chad

      continuing my interrupted thought (cnn blog really really really stinks..)

      did you realize the origin of the word "theocracy", I didnt.. kind of interesting: "It was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the first century A.D. to describe the characteristic government for Jews. "

      How has Israel done? Not to shabby.. Just survived for more than 3000 years (actually, I think that's a record).

      How about these? Finland, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Monaco, Malta, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, Norway.. All states with an official state religion... terrible persecutions there right? oh wait...... er... maybe not...

      You continually argue in generalities.. but when someone brings up specific examples..

      October 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • *frank*

      facepalm.

      October 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • ryderX

      Chad maybe this quote will show you that this nation was not founded on Christianity: From Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli that John Adams signed, Article 11 reads:

      " Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      October 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  4. Observer

    "Gouverneur Morris had often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than did he himself."
    – Thomas Jefferson, in his private journal, 2/01/1800

    September 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      A great many of these men (the Founders) were under the spell of the French "Enlightenment", an historical fact that is quite undisputable. I would not hide the established facts concerning these men(and some of their wives and children). To do so would be very unfair both to these men who loved this country enough to sacrifice their "Lives, liberty and sacred honour". Franklin was a devotee of Voltaire and other "enlightenment" scholars. While I would not deny or debate these solidly historical facts, it still remains that there were a great number of American colonials in the rank and file of the Revolutionary army who were Bible-believing Christians. What's more, if you want to know if a man really trusts his atheism, follow him through his twylight years. Many, like Andrew Jackson(who seldom had time for religeon) later changed their minds when it became apparent they were nearing the home stretch.....Good-night,everybody.

      September 30, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Chad

      The deep desire of atheists to re-write history is a real indicator of the fear that they have with regard to their choice.. It is IMPOSSIBLE to make a claim that George Washington did not believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ.
      IMPOSSIBLE.

      "it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate grat itude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience" – George Washington

      "is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor" – George Washington

      "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ" – George Washington

      October 1, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Letters

      Nelly about George Washington's faith

      ..'I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men" [Matthew 6:5]. "....

      October 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Archives

      It is mischievous in the name of 'postmodernism' to suppress and overlook the faith of the founding fathers.

      October 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • John Richardson

      The Christians continue not to get it. Having destroyed science education in this country, they now take aim at history. It wasn't too many years before the revolutionary period that churches were unabashedly burning people at the stake for heresy and, yes, lots of common people, most of whom were illiterate, were still heavily under the spell of religion. SO of course the founders didn't flaunt their fairly avant garde skepticism towards Christian orthodoxy, but they left behind writings that make it perfectly clear that one of their most pressing objectives was to prevent any sects from holding serious political power, as they had centuries of religious mayhem in Europe, including the previous successful uprising against the British crown by Cromwell and his Puritan thugs, as gleaming examples of what one absolutely had to avoid.

      October 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Go here to read what the founding fathers said in their own words, about religion.

      http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

      October 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  5. Nitalynn

    Makes me wonder if maybe they suspect something about the letter that they don't want the public to realized. Maybe it's not real?

    September 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Shhh, the satellite spies will hear you. Quick put your aluminum foil hat back on.

      September 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  6. RightTurnClyde

    It's too bad that those of the self-deprecating left want to reduce everything to a cheap polarizing political bash. The letter is noble and good. It DOES reflect a moral and ethical first president who fought very hard to give you an exceptional life (free and full of opportunity) and wanted to include ALL men. The same president and the same government at the same time that the Cons-t-i-t-ution was adopted wrote the Northwest Ordinance to forbid slavery. You were born into a once-in-history nation and you only want to tear it down and trash it. You will succeed in trashing it and OTHERS will come and take it from you (and you will once again be under their king). Too bad for you who are doing this (too bad for all of us)

    September 30, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Amen, my friend. I feel the day is coming when we will be ground beneath the heels of tyrants. We are the ONLY successful Republic since the days of the Roman Republic. The Roman Republic was gradually superceded by the Empire and the Empire burned in their hatred of Christ and His followers until they began to torment the Christians. And then as time passed the Empire began to crumble from WITHIN.....notice any kind of a pattern?

      September 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      conspiracy theorists have been ranting about tyranny for decades here

      September 30, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Who wants to tear the country down? There are those who want to see it live up to its promise. To push this country forward, you HAVE to criticize it some.

      October 1, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  7. Ian

    It belongs in a museum!

    September 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Lolz

      SO DO YOU.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Solex

      I think he was quoting Indiana Jones...

      September 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  8. RillyKewl

    Happy New Year, Everybody! This story about the Washington letter is a lovely gift. I hope it tours for all to see, and winds up prominently placed for future generations to see + enjoy.
    Happy Holidays.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  9. JohnnyJihad

    What is the problem with the letter? The founding fathers were Christians, and Jews serve the same God. The freedom in this country is to worship God in any way you want, without the government saying how to worship him.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • angora

      Many founding fathers were actually Deists, not Christian or Jewish. Deism is based in an observation of nature as evidence of a creative force and that this force does not intervene or break the laws of nature.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Les

      There is no problem with the letter. The problem is the stupidity that sees the words "god" or "faith" or "religion" as somehow pertaining only to christians. The idea that the US was founded on christian principles is a horrible lie. Any careful reading of the letters of the founding fathers clearly show that it was HUMANIST principles that guided our nation's founding.

      I am not a follower of any Judeo-Xtian(incl. Islam) or far eastern paths but I am vvery religious, worship many god and goddesses, and take my spirituality from the wonders of nature. We would all benefit if uneducated Xtian freaks would take the time to learn their own language instead of defining it in the narrow deceptive ignorant way they tend to do. And, yes, I once thought of myself as Xtian. Thankfully, I left the path of hatred and intolerance and now walk a path of light instead of the path of death and hatred as taught be the modern Xtian fools and heretics.

      BTW, the reason Rome collapsed was because of the success of the Xtian terrorists. Had Rome put an end to them quickly and efficiently, their creepy and idiotic "Love God or die!", anti-science, in humane murderous religion would be nothing than a macabre curiosity in history. A move that would have saved the lives of the millions of people the Church has murdered in the name of Love. And a move that would have assured our quiet enjoyment of nature.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  10. Anonymouse

    I wonder if these sinister people are hiding the ten commandments in their little storage locker too!

    September 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      which set of ten commandments

      there were two of them

      funny neither of them exist

      just like their god doesnt exist

      September 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  11. Doris

    Spell check is a wonderful thing. It is sum, not some.

    September 30, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      sum and some are both correct spellings

      it is the context that you should be concerned about

      not the spelling

      way to go hero

      September 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  12. mohammedfondledme

    the jews think everything belongs to them

    September 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, anything like that should be in the Smithsonian, or at mt. Vernon or something like that. It is from the mouth of pres. #1 about religous tolerance and freedom.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Yeah, how dare those jews think that something which was given to them belongs to them!

      September 30, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  13. Mary

    The letter signed by George Washington, G-d Bless Him, is on display at the Skirball Museum in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles California. It is a beautiful letter; it is a prized letter and the Rabbi of the Synogogue is quite right that it was addressed to the Congregation of Toura Synogogue. So, all of you anti semites put that in your pipes and choke...... And thank you Mr. Solomon for being the generous man who financially backed General Washington so that his wisdom and the wisdom of the founders of our country could carry on their work......Happy New Year

    September 30, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  14. Observer

    JESUS IS WATCHING AMERICA,

    We weren't there. Here's what many key people who were there said:

    "As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion"

    Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously passed in Congress and signed by President John Adams, 1797.

    Guess again.

    September 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • fred

      What gives? Did the pilgrims not come to America to escape the Church stranglehold ? The spirit of the first Americans was Christian based. I can go through (or better yet Reality Help Please) a list of "Christian based or Bible based statements by the majority of presidents and other key leaders of our country from day one that speak of God with us. God with us is Christ. The foundation of America was Christian based up until the 60's when Johnson had a bone to pick with the Catholics and struck out against prayer in school. Not because he knew anything about prayer but because the church was trying to strong arm him so it was payback time. Consider that most stores were closed on Sundays, the Lords day, until the early 60's
      I understand you are talking const-itiutionaly but, ya got my juices going. Thanks for the Friday pick me up ! Better than caffine

      September 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Observer

      It's likely that the majority of our forefathers were Christians. It is important, however, to note that these very intelligent men were given the nearly unique task of forming a new nation and decided that the best possible government would be one that clearly separated church and government.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • fred

      Agreed, but we always need a counter balance so the "church" does serve a purpose. In England the Chruch of God is all but gone and the country is in trouble. I note Islam is filling the void left by the Church. Next 20 years should be real interesting.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      its a shame religion wasnt banned right from the start

      now weve got a country full of fundamentalists all offended over holidays

      ship them all to north korea where they belong

      September 30, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Observer

      fred,

      The earliest non-native settlers of our nation were Christians from a Christian nation with a Christian king and an official Christian Church. They left because of the tyranny of religion there.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • fred

      The Brown Note
      It didn't work for Stalin and it is not working for N Korea to have state only control. China allows religion and last year began inviting Chirstian based ministries to teach the Bible. With any luck they will copy the message of Jesus improve it and market the good news through out the free world !

      September 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      you have me confused with someone else

      im saying get rid of the religious nutjobs

      they waste lifetimes on something that doesnt exist

      second

      why do people continuously call catholics christian

      when they are the furthest thing from what a christian is

      the bible and catholics are polar opposites

      the bible doesnt say to go to confession

      the bible doesnt say to pray to mary and the saints

      so to say that this country was founded by christians that were running from hard christian oppression is wrong

      they were trying to escape catholic oppression

      catholics are not christians by any standard or stretch

      of course catholics are stupid enough to think they are christians

      after all both groups are stupid enough to believe in a fairy in the sky

      September 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • fred

      The brown note
      You still fail to hit a good brown note, perhaps that is the myth? Seems many if not most christians get it wrong. I note that some on this site say the Catholics wrote the Bible. Well if they did they sure quickly forget what they said and did the opposite. So, I agree with you but, do understand some of us are working on doing just what Christ said. How about you are you willing to work on it?

      September 30, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      jesus said hed return before his followers died

      so why do you still believe theres going to be a second coming

      he is quoted multiple times in the bible making this promise

      so uh about willingness to do what this christ guy said

      he lied about one thing a few times

      why should i believe anything else in that book

      September 30, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Dear Observer, the situation is this: the Founders all believed in seperation of Church AND State. Not seperation of Church FROM State. They all believed in freedom OF Religeon, not freedom FROM Religeon. Even as late as the American Civil War the North's president(beloved of all Liberals, bless his holy name) Abraham Lincoln, called the Northern people to a day of Prayer and suplication after the South warmed their breeches for em' at Manassass, Virginia, at the battle of Bull Run. Just WHO's God do you think, pray tell, they were being asked to intreat? Other US presidents took the Good Lord off the shelf where they had neglected Him during subsequent Wars( WW1, WW2, and Veit Nam) to name a few. Just study the facts....they will speak for themselves.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Observer

      Dave Davis,

      "Just study the facts....they will speak for themselves".

      Yes. You do the same. Study up about the "politically correct" religious statements made by presidents and then read their letters to friends or about them and you will often find they are not nearly as religious as they feel they must appear to be. Even someone in the Bush administration claimed there was a public religious image of people there that didn't match reality.

      September 30, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • fred

      The Brown Note
      Actually, Jesus made it clear to the apostles before Pentacost when they thought the second comming was in their life times. He said no man knows the time or the hour but the Father. In the other occurance Jesus was referring to 70AD in response to the Jews when they would suffer complete destruction of the temple.
      One could argue when Jesus said to be ready it could happen at any time. Most understood this as conducting your life daily as if today is the day.
      Now, Jesus let us know what to look for in the end times before He comes which included Christians being chased down. Since the Apostles were being hunted and ended up dying for Chirst I can understand them thinking this is the day. In actuality the final days arrive when it becomes so bad even the stong Christians can no longer hold onto the faith.
      In the old testament we had a shadow of this when the un godly generation of Cain reached a point where they so offended God that he blotted all but Noah out of existence. Sodom was another example of the state a civilization reaches when God has had enough. There we have the same shadow of fire and brimstone. Gods story is clear and consistent He brings those who follow Him though to the promised land, the hope, united once again with God

      September 30, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      actually

      "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." –Mark 9:1 (KJV)

      "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." –Matthew 16:28 (KJV)

      "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." –Matthew 10:23 (NIV)

      theres more in the bible about this

      jesus was talking decades not centuries or more

      theres no confusing this since the bible also says no scripture is a matter of personal interpretation

      September 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      authors of the new testament tried to fix this problem but they failed miserably

      by doing what they did they created a contradiction to jesus words

      therefore the whole thing is null

      there will not be a second coming

      i promise

      September 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Dear "Observer", I already have studied the Founders. That is WHY I commeneted in such a way. Thomas Jefferson certainly was under the spell of the French phiosopher (and Atheist) Voltaire. So was Benjamin Franklin. And so were several of the others. There is no way to deny this very historical FACT. But there were others. Many more that I could and probably should name, but I will leave it to you to do your own study. I have no doubt, given the religiosity and Piety of New Englanders as well as Southerners(which many of these Patriots certainly were) That had they felt they were furthering the cause of a godless revolution(like the French, much later) these men would have picked up their musket and squirrel rifles and simply walked away.

      September 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • fred

      THE BROWN NOTE
      Note that Matthew 16:9 says “IN his kingdom” – this referred to Pentecost when they saw Jesus assended into his kingdom (heaven to sit at right hand of the Father) not come down from .
      Mark 9:1 is the same reference to Acts where at Pentecost they will see the kingdom of God come with power. This power was the Holy Spirit that they received to understand the things of God. The wording is very different than Jesus second coming to take His elect with Him.
      As to Matthew 10:23 says they are to proclaim the Gospel until the end of days, the Gospel will be proclaimed to the Jews long after they are gone i.e. the gospel will be preached after they are dead and until the end time. They themselves cannot get to all the cities.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Reality

      According to fred, "The spirit of the first Americans was Christian based." Hmmm?

      The American Indian tribes practiced "spiritualism" in various forms. And many still do !!!

      October 1, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Observer

      Reality,

      Good point. It was the Christians we hear so much about who came here uninvited ("illegal aliens") and cheated and stole the land from the native Americans, killed many, and forced them onto reservations. That's something to think about while Christians are bragging about forming our nation.

      October 1, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • fred

      Reality
      How in the world did you see your name mentioned in ( ... ). You must have special contact with the moderator or you are the moderator. With your data base I look forward to seeing Realipedia app on my Droid soon.

      October 1, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • .........

      plz hit report abuse on all reality postings

      October 1, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • tallulah13

      Chad you crack me up when you say people "are under the spell" of other people. Are students under the spell of teachers? If someone says something that makes sense to you are you "under the spell"? Why is it that they are "under the spell" only when they disagree with what you want to believe? By reading the words of those who created this nation, you can read for yourself that this was never intended to be a "christian" nation.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      My, bad. I meant Dave, not Chad.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  15. JESUS IS WATCHING AMERICA

    America is a Christian country.... whether you like it or not

    September 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • *frank*

      I have to admit, you lay out a good case.

      September 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • heliocracy

      You mean like Iran is a Muslim country? I beg to differ. The majority of Americans are Christian, but that's not enough to be "a Christian Country." What you're trying to say is that we do, or should, live in a theocracy like Iran. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and thank God that's the case.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      That statement frightens me.

      September 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • THE BROWN NOTE

      you are incorrect period

      there is no god

      so please take your eurotrash christianity garbage back to north korea

      September 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Christian Hypocrites

      That certainly explains why the US is so screwed up right now...

      September 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • AGuest9

      If he ever really existed, he is dust now in some unmarked grave outside the walls of Jerusalem, where he was hurriedly buried by his brother (or his henchmen). Nothing is watching over America but satellites.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      Amen, brother!

      September 30, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Les

      Only 10 per cent (plus or minus) colonists supported the formation of a new nation. The rest had absolutely nothing to do with its founding. Of the 10 per cent almost all were Deist, Unitarian or agnostic humanists. So NO, Christian teaching did not influence the formation of this nation or the subsequent defining of its laws. This is indisputable fact. Crawl back into the catacombs and chew on that.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Ann

    There are so many fine artifacts that have been preserved by true patriots to remind us of our founding. Read the history of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.

    September 30, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Larry

    It's a shame they are being so selfish with such an important and wonderful piece of our great American history,

    September 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  18. Roc

    Not one of you have accurately quoted history on here. Rather, you use your comment to spout your dislike for any different from you. Christians with false notions of the founding of this country and apparently non-believers who spout non-sense about Christians. Being white in America did not a Christian make. So don't blame slavery, etc on Christians. Blame it on England who brought the slaves here and the French who bought them and the Spanish who transported them. But most of all, quit getting your views from the internet and others full of hate. It truly makes you sound very ignorant and common.

    September 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • replytoroc

      Hey Roc, I could be wrong but it wasn't the English who brought the slaves here. My understanding of history is that England was opposed to slavery at the time the slaves were brought here. Slavery started in the U.S. when it was discovered tobacco and cotton could be grown in the South. Growing both required vast amounts of manual labor. I

      September 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • M1

      In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in 1542, although it was not to last (to 1545). In the 17th century, Quaker and evangelical religious groups condemned it as un-Christian; in the 18th century, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man. Though anti-slavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century, they had little immediate effect on the centers of slavery: the West Indies, South America, and the Southern United States. The Somersett's case in 1772 that emancipated a slave in England, helped launch the movement to abolish slavery. Pennsylvania passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1780. Britain banned the importation of African slaves in its colonies in 1807, and the United States followed in 1808. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, the French colonies abolished it 15 years later, while slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Const.itution.

      Abolitionism in the West was preceded by the New Laws of the Indies in 1542, in which Emperor Charles V declared free all Native American slaves, abolishing slavery of these races, and declaring them citizens of the Empire with full rights. The move was inspired by writings of the Spanish monk Bartolomé de las Casas and the School of Salamanca. Spanish settlers replaced the Native American slaves with enslaved laborers brought from Africa and thus did not abolish slavery. In Eastern Europe, abolitionism has played out in movements to end the enslavement of the Roma in Wallachia and Moldavia and to emancipate the serfs in Russia (Emancipation reform of 1861). Today, child and adult slavery and forced labour are illegal in most countries, as well as being against international law.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Les

      The importation of black slaves by the wonderful Christian southern gentry occurred because the Native American populations were dropping like flies from white man's diseases and the enslavement of whites, although commonly practiced was frowned upon. AS a result, neither Native Americans nor whites were considered to be good breeding stock. The former had no sense of time and were not hearty. The latter tended to be unruly. Thus the rise in the use of African stock.

      Biblically, they were exonerated of wrong doing because the Bible clearly states that a slave is to obey their master but contains no wording that would could be construed as prohibiting masters from keeping slaves. In 1823 CE, both blacks and women were declared to have "souls" and therein lies the obscure beginning of the anti-slavery movement. So, in truth, the demand for slaves by American southern Christians was the driving force behind the slave industry not British interests. And today, it is those Christian faiths with roots originating in the southern US that preach hatred and intolerance in direct contravention of the Bible. That is fact.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • zarec

      Lets not also forget that the increase in slavery was brought on my those darned indentured servants who were demanding jobs and land after their term of servitude was up. Better to bring a work force over that would never be freed and demand land and rights.....

      October 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  19. Priori

    If this remains unresolved, as a completely neutral party with no claim to the letter whatsoever, I'd be willing – in the role of peacemaker – to take on the burden of ownership; until I would, at some time thenafter, decide to whom, and under what terms, I'd be willing to part with it. That said, this entire matter obviously can, should, and hopefully soon will – assuming reason prevails – cease to be a problem.

    September 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Barry G.

    Ben,

    There was no reply button for the comment to which I was responding.

    September 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Well, It looks like god couldn't even show you were the reply button is, how can you trust with even more important decisions?

      September 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Crow

      Clearly the lack of a reply button is a sign from Yahweh that you should not respond.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.