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. richard

    Being a Deist, as were probably Washington and for sure Thomas Paine, the founding fathers also wanted firmly in place freedom FROM religion. God gave man reason. Man gave man religion. Peace.

    December 5, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • josh

      I am an Atheist, however nowhere does it say freedom FROM religion.

      December 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  2. Oh, Really?

    Atheism has become a religion of intolerance and hatred. And if you don't believe that, read Madeline Murray O'Hare's Wikipedia page.

    It's a real eye-opener.

    December 4, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • veggiedude

      She is but one person, and atheists (like me) think for themselves, not from a page or book. Just because we don't want to include ourselves in your holy war on Islam, does not mean we are intolerant. Look in the mirror.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  3. MissouriBoy

    I always am fascinated that the party of small govt (GOP) is the one that wants to inject religion into our private lives. The GOP claims there is a "war on Christianity". The truth is there is an effort by non-Christians to avoid having Christianity defined as the true religion of the US. Looks like George Washington foresaw this threat, and also wanted to stop our govt from becoming a theology. The founders of the US were very insightful.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Jeremy

      I think you meant theocracy

      December 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  4. David


    While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

    The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

    If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

    The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

    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.

    It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

    May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

    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.

    G. Washington

    Credit – http://www.gwirf.org/index.php/component/content/article/84-washingtons-letter.html

    December 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  5. mfx3

    And yet centuries later here we are, invoking Washington and the rest of the founding fathers as we attempt to make Christianity the official religion of America. Teabaggers, pffft.

    December 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  6. t murphy

    Proverbs 9:10

    December 2, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  7. On my knees for God's pleasure

    I wish we could see the full text of what was written.

    December 2, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  8. Plug1

    George Washington, is the founding father of TERRORISM IN THE WEST...PERIOD. and so are the rest of the presidents, if you want to call them that, who were part of the slave trade. Those are the facts,my fellow Americans!!!

    November 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Seamn

      actually several founders and early presidents fought against and spoke out against slavery. Were they all perfect no absolutly not. But you're views are unfounded and uneducated.

      November 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Ravi

      Washington freed his slaves in his will. Please look up facts before making uneducated remarks.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  9. Mark L Holland

    ("Jesus says")
    –Jesus like Buddha and Gandhi said a lot of intelligent and spiritual things, but Christianity for the most part does not follow the teachings of Jesus, they follow the teachings of the O/T. With just four verses from the virgin birth prophecy KJV, the God made flesh Jesus is invalidated. While I believe in Jesus the Rabbi's teachings, Jehovah the God made Jesus does not and has not ever existed.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • phoodphite

      I'll leave it to someone else to comment on the latter part of your post, but I certainly agree with your first sentence. Entire religions, wars, and much of the judgement and disenfranchisement between various groups that you see today - all based not on Jesus' teachings, but on decrees from unknown/story-telling origin (O/T) or from those whom Jesus constantly said were not getting his point (you know – Peter, Paul and Mary and the rest of the band).

      December 2, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • stephen

      THe historical reality of Jesus the christ has never been in question. The historical accounts as recorded by persons living in that era testify to that truth. Jesus is also recorded in historical accounts outside of the bible such as the writings of Josephus the jewish historian, Tacitus the roman historian, The talmud and others that Jesus walked the earth, Died and was raised 3 days latter as those who saw this happen recorded it in the pages of scripture that you may know he is the son of GOd. He is the judge of every human that has ever lived and will live. we must all answer to God for breaking his laws. THis is an event that no one will escape. TO all those who recieve JEsus as lord, their sins have already been paid for so we are pardoned from the eternal punishment. But to those who will not recieve JEsus as lord and accept his payment for sins will have to pay for their sins themselves. The cost of that is eternall punishment in Hell. THere is no other way! "all who call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved" and again " he who has the son has life but he who does not have the son does not have life but the wrath of God abides on him" The gift of eternal life paid for by Jesus is available to All who will recieve. GOd is rich in mercy and compassion. Read the book "the case for christ" by lee strobel.

      December 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  10. eyesopened

    You know whats really intresting? is we as so called americans dont even know what its like to live as our great grandparents did. Were they perfect? far from, but they at least appreciated what they had. You know they made it through some rough times, especially those who fought for the freedom of this nation. People we cant just think we have the right to sit back and blast eachother ignorantly on every wind of politic or opinion. Its hateful, is this what this freedom was ment to instill? thats a big NO, This freedom is the stuff that gives us aright to be thankful and not live in fear, fear of our own neighbors to take up arms or hate blogs against eachother. How freaking selfish is that hey if you want to hate Jesus or hate religion or hate a certain race or hate Mcdonalds or hate your Mom or even hate yourself, Hey your free to do so, who am I to add fuel to that fire. But food for thought just incase your not aware of common sense because you seem to know everything about life, these are not good sanctions to apply to a healthy mind set in order that you may not come off as a person that is a completly self centered individual a product of his own way of thinking. This people is not the stuff that this nation was founded on. And no matter who you are if you are living under the the greatest flag that has ever flown in the skys of this world, You are a free man or women. And if your life sucks as you know it, and all you do day in day out is complain about how stupid everyone and their brother is, as you live this ungrateful life that speaks out loud in your meaningless life. theres no one else to blame but your self and no one else. The world would do well to try it its called accountability. Oh thats right its easier to do what ever it is you feel like in a country that real men and women that cared about the future of you and I the best way they knew how to live and die for. And all you immigrants this goes for you too, if your mind set is not in line with the fact that this country that you chose to run too for peace and freedom and free money, if you have a mind to hear our eyes to read this flag flys high in glory not to some fictious God but a living God the God of the Bible that stands for freedom both inside the body and outside the body. He who the Son sets free is free indeed. And guess where you chose to live your life and raise your family. Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life and you chose life where here. Man I love the truth it speaks for its self this nation would be so much more better off if we would believe in it more than we do in our selfs,, as we all politicaly and correctly digging our own graves. heading head on towards hopelessness. You can take all and every single issue in this nation alone and it doesnt add up or have anything to do with the fact that each and everyone of us has to deal with ourselfs as hopeless. again accountability its a good thing it seperates the men from the boys! News flash did you ever wonder why you cant make it with a women? 1st you have to be a man

    November 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • SMF

      Amren and Amen, you know that we are all right (in our own eyes) some people dont want to hear the truth, but the TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE, free from hate, from fear, from the troubles in their own head.. Please continue to spread the word, Jesu is the way and the light.. The battle of Good vs evil rages on, but many dont even realize it...

      December 2, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  11. Mark L Holland

    ("NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your money. This cannot be repeated enough")

    –When we die we go through the life review, after we go through the life review we go onto whatever is next. There is no hell there is not pain or suffering other then what we experience in the life review. And no I am not a liar this is what I believe from the bottom of my soul.

    November 27, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Steve

      "NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR" Your words and then you immediately proceed into telling us what happens when we die.....LOL I got a chuckle out of that. You then attempt to give your opinion on what happens credibility by telling us it comes from the very bottom of your heart.

      November 28, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • Mark L Holland

      –The part in (" ") was from someone elses post and then my comment, I take jabs at christian doctrine all of the time. They claim that anyone who does bow down to their false god Jesus will burn in hell for eternity, I believe that everyone has a spiritual life regardless of beliefs or lack of beliefs.
      –But your right it was not one of my better posts.

      November 28, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  12. Clarify

    ...sorry...I used greater-lesser-than symbols which were deleted. My first sentence should have read, 'Evolution does not claim that "random chance [created] the beauty and perfection of life".'

    November 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  13. john

    "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy"

    So now we know for a fact that George Washington was a liberal and believed in liberal policies. This deserves to be widely repeated to those who in our generation profess hatred for the word "liberal" as if it were something profane.

    November 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Sean

      In this context, the word does not mean what you assume it means..

      November 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Matt

      The founder's and revolutionaries did indeed have extreme liberal views and intents. However, the connotation of "liberal" these days is commonly confused with what most "liberals" actually are, progressives.Progressives are polar opposites of true liberalism. The most liberal ideology today would be libertarianism.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Jeremy

      I would also like to add to Matt's comment that the freedom of others to choose does not immediately mean suppression of all. we somehow believe that because the church fathers believed that everyone should be free to choose their relligious perspectives that they also believed that they were religious pluralist which actually may be very far from the truth. When we look at where they come from we see a problem with the government waging war on any religion while promoting another. But this does not mean that the president's themselves hated the notion of religion informing every day life including politics and education.

      December 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  14. JoeB

    Thank God we are a Christian nation!

    November 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Fail!

      @JoeB – Regardless of how many times you repeat it, it's still meaningless.
      "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."
      – Anatole France

      November 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  15. Hooligan

    I am a steadfast Atheist, and while I do not believe in god, faith, or any religious texts I DO respect them and can see why many people choose to be faithful. The question is can those of faith understand why some of us do not?

    And more importantly, not punish or judge those who believe otherwise.

    November 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • qwerty

      understanding and acceptance are matters of a personal level, I am glad that you are respectful of us, and I hope Christians have been respectful of you, I for one can understand your decision but I do not agree. to me the possibility of random chance creating the beauty and perfection of life, is simply impossible. so you could say i just don't have the Faith to be an atheist

      November 27, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • wiggletail

      @ qwerty
      Atheists don't believe random chance created the beauty of life. And life ain't perfect. Neither is the human eye. Just ask those who require reading glasses for focusing on these comments. If that's Anyone's idea of an Intelligent Designer, he needs to sack the "God" who responded to his Craigslist Ad for all-round Omnicompetent Deity. The only thing you can say about Atheists as a group is that we don't believe in gods. Any of 'em. For those of us who trust in the concept of Natural Selection, we also understand it ain't creation by random chance. Read up on it. Fair's fair, I read your bible.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:41 am |
    • Clarify

      @qwerty – Evolution does not claim that "random chance the beauty and perfection of life". To the contrary, the "beauty and perfection" was created by random mutation and NON random natural selection. Your side really needs understand and ingrain that once and for all.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Clarify

      ...sorry...I used greater-lesser-than symbols which were deleted. My first sentence should have read, 'Evolution does not claim that "random chance [created] the beauty and perfection of life".'

      November 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Me

      Ha! Atheism is just another religion sold to you by the atheist evangelicals. The "there is no God, the universe popped into existence from a magic dot" theory is makin a bunch of money. Whatever makes you treat your neighbor well and live a life not devoted to your own vanity is good enough. The devil is in the details.

      November 29, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • darrell moore

      The reason is simple: you do not want to hear the truth. If you had everybody you know say anything at all about you as long as it was all true, I can promise that you would not like what you hear. As a Christian I can honestly say that I am also offended deep down when Christ convicts me. When I hear of Muhommad or Buddah or other faiths, I do not feel offended because I don't believe them. As far as an Atheist is concerned, I can't see how they can look at stars at night, feel warm sunhine etc. and say there is no God.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • phoodphite

      I am not an atheist, and have trouble understanding it. But not only do I believe you should not be punished or judged for being so, I believe you deserve equal respect as a citizen.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Jeremy

      hooligan thanks for your honesty and kindness and as a man of faith yes I can understand why it would be hard to believe. The things is I fear that too often the word "judge" is thrown around as a synonym for saying "Don't tell me I'm wrong." I think we can both disagree and no one be judged. 🙂

      December 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • veggiedude

      George Bush said atheists should not be US citizens.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. CharlesR

    If ever there was a need for "imminent domain", this is it. The letter, as stated, is a "national treasure", and belongs to the people of the United States, therefore should reside in the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian. Without the inherent selfishness of the congregation to whom it was written, it would already have been turned over for that purpose.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • dan


      November 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  17. raggmopp

    There is no greater human presumption than to read the mind of the Almighty, and no more dangerous individual than the one who has convinced himself that he is executing the Almighty's will

    November 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Da King

      Unless, you read and believe the Bible. You must believe in order to discern it through the Spirit. God gave you the Bible so you can know his will for us. raggmopp is obviously not a reader or believer of the Bible. He is among the majority.

      November 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • mreous

      On the contrary, Da King, the Bible tells that we cannot understand God which makes reading the Bible and having an intimate relationship with God completely useless.

      Secondly, the Bible also tells us that Paul, not Jesus made salvation available for non-Jews. Jesus instructed his disciples to not preach among Gentiles, but only to the children of Israel. Jesus's message was not meant us. The entire theme of the Bible is about God and Jesus's partiality for the Jews and their prejudice and dislike for non-Jews. If Christians actually understood the Bible, there would be no Christians.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  18. ovidd

    Freedom permits equality. By its very nature it can not promise it. But it must tolerate both indifference and difference,

    November 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  19. mightyfudge

    NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your money. This cannot be repeated enough.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Da King

      Written with a mind of fudge.

      November 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  20. 9julian

    a super great story and very touching indeed, you know like Dude, as a budhist and some kind of survivor of multiple variant exigent realities, sorry, I just wonder, why does our country worry and fret so much about CHina, Iran? I mean, I see the arguments as plain and fair, but pull back the perspective 1,000 years or a lot more, they have great civilizations and teachings, just as the Jewish faith carries forward with it's own righteous perspective . Our first President appears as a brilliant Statesman, well aware of the value of divergent and convergent patterns of religious faith. It is some strange factor, such a clear pen stroke that created such a strong message of religious freedom,we have to be thankful not just for the thinking of the man , but that the actual paper had the fortune to survive across time and turmoil, warfare, flood and fire:) thanks for the neat story!

    November 20, 2011 at 7:12 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.