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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. Molly Schen

    Facing History has a terrific website dedicated to the ideas in George Washington's letter, and to the early history of the letter itself. Go to nobigotry.facinghistory.org. Rich, wonderful site.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  2. johnnamayes

    I thank God I was born in the U.S of A. where I was raised free to worship God .. I was blessed in that Jesus healed me from a deadly lung disease and other afflictions. I know God is and I know Jesus Is and I know the Holy Spirit is.Jesus came and died so I could live. If people would read the Bible they would discover the way to the Kingdom. My oxygen level was once 48%, and I had been on a few powerful lung meds. The very day Jesus healed me I was walking mileswhereas I could only walk 10 feet and be out of breath. My doctor is astonished. I am blessed.

    October 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • really?

      Jesus healed you............? I guess that's one "THEORY".........how do you know it wasn't Muhammad...............or maybe even Krishna...............either way glad you aren't sick anymore.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Deborah

      And I'm thankful that I live in a country that doesn't force me to believe in boogie men and magic unicorns. I don't believe in your religion and you can't make me, as much as the GOP seems to want to do that. I believe, religion is a crutch for scared little humans that are afraid to die, it removes accountability and responsibility, all in the name of a god, but glad you feel better.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • B

      Guys, give him a break. He said is thankful for freedom of religion. Many people try to convince others of their beliefs (or lack thereof). It's not a crime. He's not being in-your-face about it. It's better for believers and non-believers alike who agree with freedom of religion to join together to fight against those who would impose their religion on others through the law. Try to recognize where the real danger is coming from.

      October 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  3. The_Mick

    Note that George Washington used to wait outside while Martha attended church. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Washington would have nothing to do with Christianity. Jefferson himself hoped America would eventually become a form of Unitarian, where the members took the best parts of each religion as it applied to society. And when Ben Franklin died, his friend and discoverer of Oxygen, Joseph Priestly, said that Franklin's "one fault" was that he led so many young men away from Christianity. Sp much for Texas, etc. brainwashing our nation's youth into believing the Founding Fathers were all about Christianity!

    October 20, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Paul

      And GW had a pew with his name on it at Christ's Church in Philadelphia. He often spoke and wrote about Providence, His reference to God. Jefferson translated the word's of Christ into a Indian tounge. He also sponsored a Bill in Congress to send Christian missionaries to the tribes. Franklin insisted on opening the Continental Congress with pray and was George Whitfield's friend and host while the latter was in Philadelphia.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  4. JEN

    ONE THING I LEARN FROM RELIGIOUS GROUPS, THEY NEVER GET ALONE. THE ONE WITH THE BIG BANK ACCOUNTS WIN

    October 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  5. eyesopened

    boy there must be someone very ignorant thats screening these messages and not allowing them to come through to the public as when I type them out they are deleted before they can be sent through, people you are being led and prejudecly being scooped cnn thats on you you had better check this out

    October 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Alyssa

      And yet, here your post is...

      October 21, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  6. Tsenu

    Need this

    October 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  7. Kweg Yung

    Just because you believe in something doesn't mean it is real... But what the hell, go ahead and kill anyone who doesn't believe the way you do. God's obviously not powerful enough to kill evil in this world. He really needs your help identifying and eradicating all non-believers! Kill them so they can be saved!

    October 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • whoopitydoo2

      Who are you talking about? Muslims? They're the only ones doing that.

      October 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • whoopitydoo2

      Or are you talking about liberals? They do that too. Well, they might not kill as much as the Muslims do, but they're really good at beating up people, intimidating/harassing people, destroying property, and many many other crimes as exemplified by 98% of all prisoners being registered Democrats or once were.

      October 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Byrd

      whoopitydoo2: Please cite your source for that last comment.

      October 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Observer

      whoopitydoo2,

      "98% of all prisoners being registered Democrats or once were"

      Obviously, you have ZERO FACTS so you JUST MAKE THINGS UP. Pathetic! So much for honesty.

      October 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • really?

      @ woopdooowhatever ---- here is just a taste of violence committed by Christians -– Killed all the Indians, killed Africans and others brought over to this country as slaves. Dont forget Christians like to kill other Christians........hundreds even thousands of years of "christian v christian wars-- WW1, WW2, war of 1812, revolutionary war, spanish/american war, civil war, mexican/american war. I feel sorry for your kids and the lies im sure you tell them to set your own agenda

      October 21, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  8. Observer

    marsmotel
    "You are a moron and no nothing about our Congress. If you do not like our policies or President's, please go elsewhere to live. Get of the Bush crap already."

    "You are a moron and NO nothing about our Congress".
    "Get OF the Bush crap already."
    Now those are two classics! LOL!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  9. JustThinkForOnce

    @marsmotel
    " You are a moron and no nothing about our Congress. If you do not like our policies or President's, please go elsewhere to live. Get of the Bush crap already." Really you are the moron and it is ignorant people like you who elect embarrassing presidents like Bush. You can’t even write a few simple sentences to express your feelings. Very sad did you get out of grade school?

    October 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • withoutgod

      I always find it entertaining when someone, in the course of accusing another of not being able to write, urinates all over grammar and spelling, such as you have done here.

      October 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Observer

      "urinates all over grammar and spelling"

      Please check a dictionary.

      October 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  10. John

    i found name "Hebrew and Juwish" in the letter, is this the only religion it talks about? G Washington must be racist.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  11. GonzoG

    IF this letter cannot be donated to the National Archives, it NEEDS to be kept in a museum of some sort. Perhaps one devoted to Jewish history in America, if not one devoted to Religious Freedom and Tolerance.

    The letter(and the seed of the idea it represents) is TOO IMPORTANT to be in posession of one person or one organization.

    October 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • MikeD

      While I'm sympathetic to your desire to have it available to everyone; to forcibly take it would violate the very spirit of the letter and an insult to George Washington.

      October 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • jboh

      Sounds a lot like the Catholic church locking-up ancient books during the Dark Ages. It was intended to promote ignorance in the populace, giving them totalitarian control over all dialog.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Thomas

      MikeD is correct. I'd add “It is a sign of how important the Jews were that they were able to meet the president,” as was written in the article only shows how overly inflated the egos are of the congregation. GW visited the synagogue and other places in all the States at that time. It certainly had nothing to do with anyone's importance. Nowadays perhaps a politician weighs carefully how a visit can help their political agenda, campaign/finances or get them votes. I'd wager that was not the spirit of GWs visiting all the states and the various people he'd met. That's like the inns that say so and so slept here, it doesn't mean they had a pleasant stay or would even stay there again. They had to sleep somewhere and GWs trip meant he had to encounter people in the all the states. DUH! That congregation needs to get off their high horse.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  12. Kweg Yung

    Corporate America's expansion into China was paid for by the American taxpayer. Bush's “tax cuts for the rich” policy helped to fund this transition. That's why no American jobs were created but a lot of Chinese jobs were. Republican politicians represent the corporate rich, the 'job creators'. When was the last time you saw a job created in the U.S.? The rich don't pay tax in this country and their corporations are physically based in communist China; where, by the way, SOCIALIZED healthcare and SOCIALIZED education are the norm and ALL the banks are state owned. These former American companies only pay tax in China, supporting a growing communist government and military. Republican politicians sold us (U.S.) out. These guys aren't batting for us (U.S.) anymore.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • MikeD

      "Interesting" rambling, but what does it have to do with George Washington's letter?

      October 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • marsmotel

      You are a moron and no nothing about our Congress. If you do not like our policies or President's, please go elsewhere to live. Get of the Bush crap already.

      October 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Robert

      Completely off topic.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Johnny

      You are right about the free trade...but not just China, but NAFTA, CAFTA and now Korea...and it is not just the Corporatist and Republicans that are taking us down this road. It is also the Globalist in the Democratic party taking us as well. Karl Marx has married Ayn Rand!!!

      October 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  13. Anomic Office Drone

    George Washington had it right nearly 225 years ago, and still some seem to believe that their rights outweigh the rights of their countrymen.

    "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, 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 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  14. Prichard

    "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

    October 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  15. OregonTom

    I am so proud to live in a country that values freedom of religious expression. This letter should go on a nation wide tour 🙂

    October 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Traveller

      Oregon Tom,
      oh yeah here's how much your country, my country, values freedom of religion. On youtube:
      "McCain proves it is a war against islam".
      & Here's where McCain & the rest of the U.S gov. get their vile views on Islam & Muslims from, on youtube:
      "McCain's spiritual leader".
      (now this one is a must see LoL it is priceless)

      October 11, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • YurFunny

      exactly traveller! and you're free to hate mccain, just as mccain is free to hate whoever he wants, as you purport..

      October 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  16. Bev

    The dictionary defines a Christian as: "Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on his teachings."
    If you need to know what Mormons believe, go to the true source, Mormon.org

    October 10, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Matthew

      Or answer the doorbell.

      October 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • B N O

      Your Jesus was a man who was created, was a sinner and your husband will be a god like him.
      The true Jesus is God, was never a sinner, but had our sins laid on him. And he is Lord, and there is NO OTHER gods.

      Keep your cult out of this discussion.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • B N O

      The dictionary is far more correct than your skewed doctrine.

      BTW, the existence of your church is based on the apostacy of the church, therefore in 1776m there were no true churches and therefore no Christians. WRONG!!!!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • JustThinkForOnce

      B N O in your little world maybe but if you really studied the Bible you would fine Jesus cursing a fig tree for not having any fruit even thought it was not the season for the tree to have fruit. Sounds like a very delusional person which is what his followers are. The bible which most Christians believe to be the perfect word from god is full of contradictions. And in fact was written by men with a agenda. Their agenda was to get as much power as they could over others. Same agenda today.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • really?

      @ BNO -– Christianity started as a cult in ancient Rome. Some may argue it still is. I sure as hell don't believe in a magical human who created the universe by waving his hands. As long as you keep your "THEORY's" out of my secular laws in good.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Nosurprise

      @Really?...true, but as you can see, historical evidence is rarely considered with the ultra religious. Because some people can't believe that this life may be all there is, it's much more pleasant to believe in some magical afterlife.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  17. Lizzie

    Don't lost the meaning of this in the debate of slavery. In today's climate this letter is important. This man, one of our founding fathers, clearly felt that ALL religions should be protected in the United States. At that time the Jewish religion was looked upon with the same distaste that Islam is today. Christians saw Jews as the decedents of the people who killed their savior and yet GW is saying here that in this country ALL religions regardless of how we feel about them shall have freedom and shall not be persecuted. In the news today there are 'Christians' calling other religions 'cults' and 'evil'. That kind of language from leaders will result in all manner of persecution both here and abroad. We need the message in this letter more than ever.

    October 10, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Traveller

      Lizzie,
      You don't get the meaning of this letter either.
      on youtube:
      "Criminal Rothchilds"
      "the federal reserve bank & the rothchilds"
      "MacCain's spiritual leader"

      When you're through watching that on youtube you'll understand what that letter was all about, & what prompted Georgi boy to write that letter.
      Sorry to ruin the emotional moment for you but the truth can sometime be a bitter pill to swallow & it certainly isn't my intention to rain on your parade.

      October 11, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • YurFunny

      yaaaay to conspiracy theorists!!!

      October 11, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Robert

      The Rothschilds? Really? They are not even in the top 500 wealthiest families any more. Their private bank is doing OK, and they are certainly not hurting, but they are in no position to be a threat to anyone, if they ever were. And "MacCain"? That's funny. Start by learning how to spell his name. Then try to do some real research.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  18. Sircuts

    George Washington may have been a slave owner...but he was good to them,paid them,kept their families together, upheld his promise to them, gave them land, and educated them....in fact he treated them better then most bosses treat employees.

    October 10, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • Darryll Brooks

      Well If this true ....... Why have past and recent administrations imposed policies that keep Black families apart ? For example ,the drug policies that has been change recently about powder cocaine and crack cocaine. this alone would remove the male or offender from the home for long periods of time (focusing only on subject of removing family not the crime). If George Washington kept families together Counseling and other options may prove more successful. Why is Black workers among the most unemployed and even being a smaller percentage of the population? ,if George Washington paid his slaves.and gave them land . Why would most people oppose if President Obama does that now? Following the blue print of our founding father.... Right? Not by giving them land but rebuilding where they live now as employment.homes ,shops ,stores etc. improving our nations home market instantly . By helping to create several smaller thriving economy s that would get the main one going also? I think this should be a national Question

      October 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  19. zip

    I just love the right wing kooks that want to mystify the "Founding Fathers." All were slave holders. Most were getting a little slave nookie on the side. But somehow they were touched by the hand of God. Not bloody likely.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Alyssa

      John Adams and Ben Franklin weren't slaveholders. It may be more appropriate to say that the Southern Founding Fathers were slaveholders. Many even recognized the contradiction, but still did little to stop it. Washington freed his long-time slave companion upon his death. So too did Jefferson with many of his slaves. But both men waited until after they were dead.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  20. Jerry1970

    Just a thought here, but if you don't believe in religion of any kind, why are you reading the "Belief Blog". Do you live in such a negative place that you have to come here and try to bait total strangers into arguments? I, for one, never read anything from Fox News because I don't agree with them and readers, for the most part, are not interested in logical debate. You unbelieving commenters are not here to debate to criticize and ridicule. There is a lot I believe in but being able to change the mind of the arrogantly ignorant is not one of them.

    October 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      I agree that people shouldn't simply troll religious forums to pick fights. However, religion is a major issue in this country that has a far reaching effect on people who don't subscribe to it. More and more politicians are trying to force religion upon government. Religious or not, on this planet religion impacts everyone.

      Plus, religion doesn't require faith to be interesting. It can be interesting from a purely academic standpoint.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Fundamentalists are an obnoxious threat to the liberties of the rest of us. Fundamentalists aren't asking for tolerance. They are seeking to control the rest of us by writing their nutty theology into our law. I don't like religious fundamentalists. They are all the same, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:10 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.