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. wendy5

    i can tolerate any religeon except islam; until sharia law is done away with they can stay away;it is barbaric and shows just how backward a group of people they are; yea they may have a few exceptional brains as any group does but who has time to weed through that haystack of over a billion;not worth americas time;they live 300 miles away let them be at peace in their own countries where they all speak dress and relate the same; rehabilitate them there in their countries because i dont want to here their yapping anymore in mine

    October 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Renee Brown

      First, there are many American citizens who are Muslims so this IS their country too, not just yours. As for the fundamentalist Muslims, I abhor their mangled, ignorant and mean spirited beliefs to but they don't seem any different to me than the fundamentalist Christians in this country, especially the ones who are trying to drag their beliefs into the political realm and make their beliefs the law of the land. How is that different from the fundamentalist Muslims or the fundamentalist Jews for that matter who control a huge portion of the parliament in Israel and are, imo, largely responsible for the continuing discord between Israel and the Palestinians. Ignorance is what makes fundamnetalists anywhere. And, despite what Sarah Palin claims, education is not elitist.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Observer

      The main problem with radical Muslims seems to be that they want to practice so many of the same commands that God put in the Bible before Jesus got him to change his mind.

      October 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Rashid

      You have every right to feel aggrieved by the actions of some muslims and their application of Islam but you should not and you ought not to dismiss the whole concept behind Islam with such haste. The Muslim position is clear, The Muslim does not claim to have a religion peculiar to himself, Islam is not a sect or an ethnic religion. No Arab can lay claim to It. In its view all Religion is one, for the Truth is one. It was the same religion by Moses,Jesus and Earlier Prophets, It was the truth taught by all the inspired Books. In essence it amounts to a consciousness of the Will and Plan of God and a joyful submission to that Will and Plan. If anyone wants a religion other than that, He is false to his own nature as he is false to God's Will and Plan. Don't be haste in making a judgement of something you have limited knowledge about, Islam is the submission to God's will and plan.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  2. Greg

    “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.”

    What a stupid statement. America was founded by slave owners.

    October 9, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Greg

      Here's a book to add to your library, Loeb.

      "Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire", by Robert Perkinson

      October 9, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  3. Moby49

    The letter is more about tolerance of differences than religion. The key phrase is

    "happily, the Government of the United States, which 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".

    October 9, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • JeZeus

      Charlatans mislead the sheep to wallow in their self-idolatry. Bigots beat them into submission, frustrated at their inability to cope due to their ignorance. Hypocrites sell them to the wolves in their lust for riches.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Greg

      "...they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens..."

      How demeaning !

      October 9, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • mapafair

      You are right, as long as you stay a upstanding citizen, don't break the laws you are welcome in the Undied States of America

      October 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  4. The Concerned One

    All of the Abrahamic religions are false.
    They are just repositories of mythology from wandering ancient tribes.
    Most of the stories come from other ancient cultures like Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc.
    Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, never existed.
    The Kingdoms of Solomon and David never existed (there is zero actual archaeological evidence–ZERO).
    Islam is no different.
    Mormonism is a pathetic attempt at bringing these falsehoods forward in time and place.
    There is no such thing as god.

    October 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Paul

      You need to read a few issues of this publication........ http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/

      October 9, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • Greg

      Paul has found a pious website that was devoutly determined to find an archaeological record.

      In fact disinterested archaeology has largely dismissed the story of the Exodus, which claimed that 600,000 people wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years. It didn't happen. Period. No archaeological record. It's a pious myth.

      And it should come as no great surprise that a story with such a plethora of Star Wars-like special effects piously recounted - one of my favorites being the yarn of how Aaron and the Egyptian priests cast down their staffs, which promptly turnned into snakes, with Aaron's snakes devouring the others - no great surprise that this story left no archaeological evidence.

      P.S. Archaeologists have found no evidence for the Star Wars saga either.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Greg

      "Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, never existed."

      Now this is downright amusing.

      "Matthew sets great store on the fulfillment of Scripture, and in 21:5 he states, quoting Zechariah 9:9:

      'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'

      Scholars of the Hebrew Bible recognize this kind of poetic prophecy: the third line of the text restates what is said in the second line. This is called “synonymous parallelism”—where two lines of poetry say basically the same thing in different words.

      But Matthew evidently did not understand this poetic convention in this place, leading to some rather bizarre results. In Matthew, Jesus’ disciples procure two animals for him, a donkey and a colt; they spread their garments over the two of them, and Jesus rode into town straddling them both (Matthew 21:7). It’s an odd image, but Matthew made Jesus fulfill the prophecy of Scripture quite literally."

      Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)"

      October 9, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Question everything

      Arguing the authenticity of any truth about a fictional god is absolutely amuzing when folks reference the bible. This is the equivalent of the GE dishwasher salesman claiming GE dishwashers lead you to the only path of clean dishes because it states it in the GE owners manual.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Question everything

      Oops meant non-fictional....

      October 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  5. NoOne4President

    We shouldn't be judging our founding fathers who in account shaped the country with the bible. No matter what one god serves, if any, we should all be respectful of one's beliefs expecially of the father of our nation, Gearge Washington. In reply to the actual bible refrences, the old testament has over 800 refrences to the savior who, jesus does fit everyone (in the new testament). Nonetheless people in our nation strive for freedom of speech then criticize anyone that says something that they do not agree with.

    October 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Well, O.K.

      In the words of Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On".

      October 8, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  6. MCJNY

    Take this as confirmation of the separation of church and state. You shall be treated equally under the law regardless of your stance on invisible gods, dusty old books or even worshipping the earth. Whatever floats your boat. Let the belief flourish in the heart but the government be run by the head and logic. We are in the 21st century, yet we work and live and think as if it was the dark ages.

    October 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  7. David Crosby

    Oh did I forget to mention that Jesus is dead... and more than likely to remain..dead..

    October 5, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • LibsSuck

      Wrongo Athiest biggot..........do the same to muslims if you have the balls I recommend do it in Egypt you know Obama arab spring they all love americans there now thanks to your false messiah.......

      October 5, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • LibsSuck

      No Jesus lives but you will find out soon enough you only got about one more year on earth then a lot of explaining to do and appologizing..........

      October 5, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      One more year? Really?

      “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
      —1 John 2:18
      That was 2000 years ago. We're all still waiting.

      Christians have been waiting on tenterhooks for the Second Coming since the Bible itself was written.
      Many have prophesied the exact time of date of His return and ALL have been wrong.
      George Rapp said it would be September 15th, 1829.
      William Miller predicted October 22, 1844. Jesus’ failure to arrive is known as “The Great Disappointment”. Many of his disillusioned followers went on the found the 7th Day Adventist Church, who are still patiently awaiting His return.
      Charles Russell, 1st President of the Watchtower Society told his fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus would be back in 1874.
      Rudolf Steiner maintained that from 1930 onwards, Jesus would grant certain people psychic powers to enable them to witness his presence in the “etheric plane”.
      Herbert Armstrong, Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God said 1975.
      Bill Maupin managed to convince his followers to sell all of their worldly goods in preparation for Jesus’ return on June 28th, 1981.
      Benjamin Crème stated that on June 21st, 1982 Christ would make a worldwide television announcement.
      Mark Blitz, Pastor of El Shaddai Ministries says it would be September 30th, 2008
      Jerry Falwell said it’d happen between 1999 and 2009.
      Harold Camping itold everyone that the Rapture would happen May 21, 2011 after failing in his first predicted date of 1994.

      We're all still waiting.

      Conversely, many believe He’s all ready come in the form of Sun Myung Moon, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baha u llah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, David Koresh, Hailie Selassie, John Thom, Arnold Potter, William Davies, George roux, Ernest Norman, Krishna Venta, Ahn Sahng-Hong, Jim Jones, Mashall Applewhite, Hulon Mitchell, Wayne Bent, Ariffin Mohammed, Mitsuo Matayoshi, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, Inri Cristo, Thomas Provenzano, David Icke, Shoko Asahara, Hogan Fukinaga, Marina Tsvigun or Sergei Troop.

      We're all still waiting.

      It would appear that the much lauded Jewish carpenter has been thoroughly dead for 2000 years and will remain so.

      October 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • J.W

      I am still going by my theory that it will be in 3025.

      October 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Jeff

      So the bottom line is simple.. Anyone who says when the Lord will come back is plain wrong. The bible clearly states that no one will know the day or the hour of his return, only God would know. So, for any Christian to follow the doctrine of religious leader..Oh I dunno, Harold Camping comes to mind, is sadly deceived. However, one only needs to take a look at the condition of our world and this country to realize the times certainly do seem ripe.. If we look at the Arab Spring and what it is likely to bring...If we look at the present state of Israel and all the crazy things that have happened, both politically, socially and environmentally, then it certainly seems reasonable that the time draws near.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Well yeah, when you compare all this instability to the past who could imagine we are not near the end? I mean those pesky World Wars and the spread of Europeans through the Americas, the Crusades, etc. were just little sideshows.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • NoOne4President

      You don't have any proof that jesus is dead, and we don't have any that he is alive either so no one is particular has the authority to say if this religous icon is in fact dead or alive.

      October 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mmmm...sorry

      @NoOne4President – Uh, nice try, but nope. The fact that neither of two contradictory assertions can be proven in no way means that both of them are equally probable. This is the kind of nonsensical hocus-pocus that religion has been pulling since the dawn-of-time. It is enormously more likely that Jesus is dead than alive in 2011 (and that assumes he actually existed at some point in time).

      October 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  8. David Crosby

    Too bad they didn't afford the Native Americans or anybody of color the same liberty.....We live in a duplicitous system..and a very vicious monotheistic based colonial machine..time for payback...

    October 5, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  9. chrissy333

    The founding fathers were Freemasons who were Gnostics. Gnostics study esoteric theology and cosmology. They study books that were declared heretical by the Church. They believe in the divinity of man They believe that gnosis (knowledge) is the key to salvation Their studies include the Keys of Solomon, Book of Enoch, Qabbalah, and ancient egyptian mysteries. Lucifer is the light-bearer and illuminates one with knowledge. Those of you who believe that our nation was founded on Christian beliefs are misled. They are quite "Satanic". Even the Capitol of Washington DC is laid out in the form of a pentagram and the Washington monument is an obelisk in honor of the Egyptian god Horus! The pyramid with the all-seeing eye of Horus on the back of the dollar bill is just another clue!

    October 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Tea4One

      @chrissy333-actually, they were Christian men heavily influenced by Deism. You made a rather large jump from a group of Freemasons to a Satanic cabal.

      October 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • steveinmo

      Uh Chrissy.... you might want to stop watching the History, Discovery, & NatGeo Channels and the nonsense they put out. Sad part though is Hollywood got hold of it to make money in all their "conspiricy movies" and now people believe it, along with the garbage of evolution, cosmology, psychiatry, mmgw, and the like.

      "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should belive a lie; That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." – 2 Thes 2:11-12

      "I also will choose their strong delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not." – Is 66:4

      October 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • c

      Throughout human history, many cultures and nation's have adopted and adapted language, mores, symbols and architecture – Doric, Roman and so forth. Study the architecture in the Middle East, Europe, Asia , South America etc. you'll see common theme's in design. This is not rocket science -every time I hear this stuff about Washington Dc, it makes me wonder if folks are playing with full or empty deck's. We're all a bunch of copycats and the Devil could be from Lillput.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • ummm...

      @chrissy333. Satanic! Wow! Cool!
      @Steve in Mo – Here we go again. Another bible sentence quoting christian. Boooring! "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Chapter 3, Line 1 (or 3:1)

      October 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • ????

      Your post is not completely accurate. Many of the Founding Father's were in fact Deist's. Many were active Mason's, but your definition of Masonic belief is skewed, a lot. Peace.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  10. Usta4545

    "$5,000, a large some of money at the time" A large "some" of money? Really?

    October 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Present Truth

    Okay, are you done hosing down the desk with your testosterone?

    October 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  12. cbridge

    what a bunch of cynical jerks!

    October 4, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  13. MashaSobaka

    The government will give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.... Oh, Mr. President, if you actually believed these words, then you are thrashing in your grave.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Usta4545

      I find the language of the quote interesting. To say that you don't support something is not the same as saying you'll stand up against it. Obviously, I have not read the full letter, but this article makes a pretty big splash about the letter without telling us very much at all.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  14. Onoe!

    George Washington had wooden teeth! Never trust a man with wooden teeth!

    October 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • ML

      A commonly held false belief in false teeth; George's teeth were ivory.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • ummm...

      Ivory teethed man speaks with forked tongue

      October 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Martin

    Robert Treat Paine

    "I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing
    me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings
    of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been
    continually sounding in mine ears".

    To suppress the faith and move away from the intent of the founding fathers
    is indeed deceitful.

    May God preserve the moral, religious foundation on which our nation was built.

    October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • John Richardson

      So why do you think George Washington never took communion?

      October 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Martin

      Here is an outline from George Washington's speech on
      Religion and Morality:
      Are "indispensable supports" for "political prosperity."
      Are the "firmest props of the duties of Men and Country."
      The oaths in our courts would be useless without "the sense of religious obligation."
      "And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion."
      "Reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

      October 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Observer

      Forget the prepared speeches by politically correct presidents and look at the real men behind the position:

      "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

      October 3, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Martin

      Forget? how? to cover the dubious intent?

      October 3, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Observer


      With the large majority of people being believers, any politician must play to the crowd to get a job. If you read about the most critical people in forming our nation, men like Jefferson and Adams, you will find that their personal letters show a different view of religion than their "official" one. Jefferson thought that the Bible contains so much nonsense that he edited it down to less than 50 pages.

      October 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Martin

      Again, the 'faith' of the founding fathers have never been in dispute for those who truly cared to read. For those with a michievous intent to deceive it does appear otherwise.

      October 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Justice

      Either cite your sources or be called liars. Do not ever slander our Forefathers. Their faith in the almighty was clear as evidenced in their writings. Notice for example the references to "Nature's God", "Creator", and "Providence" in the Declaration of Independence. Also try reading their letters at the National Archives. Keep your deceitful lies to yourselves about their faith, or lackthereof as you say.

      October 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Observer

      You really should grow up and do some research before you make such a fool of yourself by falsely hinting someone is a liar.

      Thomas Jefferson thought that the Bible contained so much nonsense that he edited his own version to less than 50 pages. Do a google on "Jefferson Bible" so you won't look so ignorant next time.

      “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”
      - Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 1/24/1814

      October 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Martin

      Betrayed ignorance at its heights coupled with a lack of basic understanding of intent of the true faith of the founding fathers.
      Deceit is not a virtue but a vice and conintually trying to argue for it does not help establish credibility.

      October 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Observer


      So you had no rebuttal. Why not at least attempt to throw in a fact or two?

      October 3, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Observer

      "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! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prost-tutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "
      – John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816

      October 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • TheWiz

      Tell me how exactly any religious faith is being being persecuted or suppressed in the United States? None are. Glen Beck-ites are just mad because no one faith is being primacy of place. Separation of Church and State was intended for the mutual protection of the civil life of the nation, and the integrity of religious communities. The "founding fathers" were neither secular humanists nor primitive TEA-Partiers. They as diverse in their religious opinions and beliefs as any other group. But, they all knew that is was important both for the welfare of the state and the well-being of the church that the two be kept separate. They were closer, after all, to the 30 Years' War than we are to the Civil War. They also witnessed the British Government treating the Church of England like a department of the state. Both situations were evil. Period.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • ryderX

      Justice, "Nature's God" refers to the Diest concept of a Supreme Being, not the Christian God. If you would research this, you'll find many of our founding fathers were Diests, not Christians, as their letters often point out.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Hitler consistently referenced The Bible and Jesus Christ in his public addresses.
      Was he a Christian leader?

      October 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  16. TheJimster

    @hippypoet...lay off man *smoking weed*...poor thing

    October 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. KeithTexas

    A bunch of Children trying to control a bunch of Children. Logic never entered the debate at all, I don't care what happens to the letter and in the end it has no real value.

    October 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  18. hippypoet

    Come one come all, see the fantasticly real god! feel its touch, warmth, the burn, feel the god that you have been without for so very long! come with me and you will see a true sight to behold more then anyother and the best part is, no special offerings are needed, no place of whorship, just an open hand of life and death. This is the one true god as we know any form of gods on earth. This is the one and only creation that can bring life and death by simple existence. It knows more about the history of our planet then our planet itself. It is what scorned the jews in the dessert not an invisible creation of man! This is what people see when they claim to have seen the light! Only two special days a year, and we get a bonus show of dissappearance and reappearance every so often. My God has shown me the path that lay before me, and said not to me to follow one or the other but instead left it upon me to make my own choice of which way to go. The most important thing about my God is that is has children, but they are not to be whorshipped as they are rivals in the cosmos for the love of my God. The closer you are to my God is not always the safest however, as is being the furthest away. Both have a negitive affect. My God knows math, and science, most importantly knows balance, and teaches without teaching. But my God does scorn the ignorant! Come and whorship with me that which has been whorshipped by the greatest people ever known, whorshipped the longest by the most people in history. Come feel the warmth of my God, and know what it is to live with God always there to shining a light on you. I call my God the SUN. Others have called it Aton the sun disk, but that was 3000 years ago in Egypt, even then the whorship of the SUN was an ancient one long forgotten by the Eyptians at that time. E ven if you wish not to follow belief is not needed as proof of my God is there, all around you, in every thing you touch shows its power.Oh and my God doesn't do to anyone differently then anyother, all shall recieve equal treatment. Go and be in the light
    i stand by my SUN. I know that there are a great deal more stars in the universe then the number you can state, but mine is the one that gives me, us, warmth, air, food, drink, basically – life- and so as i stated its MY GOD – THE SUN... i stated that there may be lesser gods on an earthly realm, but mine created the earth, and keeps it living. I preach its energy, and by transferrence becomes us and all living things on this planet. When it dies is when the memory of it begins if we as a species still exist, but long before its implosion it will engulf the earth during an expansion of the star, called a red gaint, just before going super nova, then finally poof- black hole lives for a split second, then again poof! I have an ok/whatever understanding of stars. The logic of whorshipping our SUN is beyond arguement, calling it a GOD is illogical but nessesary to gain a following as to move the civilization past the moronic idea of god as its currently understood.
    Oh my God can power a car so you have no need for earth based fuel. My God gives its power freely and to all creatures, we are stupid to not use it!
    using the law of conservation of matter and energy, the energy given off by the sun simply transferrs to us thru food and warmth, but the whorshipping goes beyond that. if the planet were even just a few hundred feet closer to mars we would be very cold all the time, if closer to the sun by equal distance, very very hot. so everything points to the sun as the true life giving object to whorship if you were to whorship anything- logically speaking!
    fear not my friends for all answers can be answered.

    October 1, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • John Richardson

      hippypoet writes: "if the planet were even just a few hundred feet closer to mars we would be very cold all the time, if closer to the sun by equal distance, very very hot."

      That's nonsense worthy of an "intelligent design" adherent. The earth's orbit is elliptical and at its farthest from the sun, it is about 3.1 MILLION miles farther than when it is at its closest.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Gumby

      "if the planet were even just a few hundred feet closer to mars we would be very cold all the time, if closer to the sun by equal distance, very very hot.".

      Typical rabid creationist idiocy and ignorance. Do you really think the Earth orbits the sun in a perfect circle? Do you really think that, in the utter vastness of space, that the orbital "Goldilocks zone" for habitable climate is a narrow band only 10 feet wide? Frickin' hell, no wonder the United States lags behind most of the rest of the developed world in education and scientific literacy – we have millions of deluded, unstable religious idiots like you who just blindly swallow religious dogma that has been obsolete for centuries.

      Oh, my. Someone needs to go back to 4th-grade science class and pay attention this time.

      October 2, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Mi with a Khael

      To John and Gumby, I think you are lacking in education as well. If you actually read what hippypoet typed you would see that he/she was arguing against religion and is not an adherent of intelligent design. I think you need to brush up on your reading comprehension skills. At any rate your attempt to come across mentally superior has failed miserably.

      October 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @MI I didn't say he beleived in intelligent design, but that he was making an unscientific claim worthy of their worst polemical stupidities. Brush up on your own reading skills.

      October 5, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  19. beelzebubba

    Christ, who died because he stayed above politics, proved with his life that the separation of church and state is essential. Sadly, fundamentalists have perverted the intent of his message. When they claim our society is 'keeping Chrisitanity out of the schools and out of the town square' they are spewing a message that Jesus did intend and trying to impose religion on a nation that was not meant to have an official religion.

    October 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • The Dude

      Your Christ is a figment of someone elses imagination. Try thinking for yourself.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Gumby

      Christ never existed. The mortal man Jesus may have existed (though there is little to no evidence), but Christ is a made-up religious zombie-puppet manufactured by Saul of Tarsus (Paul).

      October 2, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • TheWiz

      Hear, hear. And to Gumby et al: there is plenty of evidence, especially when one considers the New Testament Gospels, not to mention the letters of Paul as independent works, and not a whole volume. Even the ancient anti-Christian Gnostics did not deny the historical existence of Jesus. And, even they tried to draw on what came to be regarded as canonical Scripture (through a very democratic process, by the way, and not by imperial fiat) to prove their own points. Besides, I don't know too many people who would knowingly give their lives for something they know for a fact to be a lie (as the apostles themselves did).

      October 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • LibsSuck

      The Dude change your name to the truth, the dude that hates Christians only because somehow in the Dude's little pea brain that is cool or chic but never do it to muslims..........biggot.

      October 5, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  20. ma & pa

    Christ invited all ye who are heavy laden to come unto Him and He will give ye rest...peace. You can't rest without peace and you can't have peace without a place to rest. Washingtons knew the spirit of the land is peaceful freedom for all who want innocent peace. No amount of arguing about a fact changes a fact.

    October 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And the fact is, there is no proof that any god ever existed.

      October 1, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Gumby

      Too bad for you, you have no "facts", only religious belief.

      October 2, 2011 at 9:38 am |
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About this blog

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.