George Washington on the Difference Between Religious Toleration and Religious Freedom

tourosyn_creditRead George Washington to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, August 18, 1790.

This is an amazing letter for all kinds of reasons, but I am always struck by how Washington makes a clear distinction between religious toleration and religious freedom.

Here is a taste:

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 was by 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.