Archive for the ‘Intolerance’ Category

The Times and Fantasy Legal Theories

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The Times has put forth yet another magisterial editorial denouncing the Church for our failure to get up to date with the Brave New World of contraception.  They seem particularly outraged that people who have a moral objection to contraception — and to being forced to pay for it and promote it — would dare to take their case to court.  This is odd, since the Times usually seems to like it when people bring the courts into constitutional and moral disputes.

Of course, you can’t really expect much sense from the Times’ editorial board, so the item itself isn’t really worth responding to in any detail.  But one point in the article caught my attention, and I wrote a letter to the editor about it.

The point that struck me was their comment about a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  The court was ruling on a legal challenge to the HHS contraception and abortifacient mandate. The case was brought by Hobby Lobby, a for-profit business run by Christians who object to being forced to promote practices and products against their moral beliefs.  They cited the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.   This case is similar to 60 other cases brought against the mandate.

In their editorial, the Times quoted a law professor who is a consistent adversary of the Church in the public square:

Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law and an expert on the Restoration Act, rightly called the 10th Circuit’s interpretation of the law “a fantasy” that badly undermines rules forbidding corporations from discriminating on the basis of religion.

The professor’s comment is more interesting for what she omitted, than for what she said.  Hence my letter to the editor, which follows:

In your July 1 editorial, “The Contraception Battle”, you commented on the recent decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which recognized a private business’ free exercise rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in a challenge to the HHS contraception mandate.  You quoted Prof. Marci Hamilton to say that this decision was based on a “fantasy” legal theory.  Perhaps by “fantasy”, Prof. Hamilton actually meant “a legal theory that has already been accepted in 22 separate lawsuits by federal district and appeals courts around the nation”.  That fact — which is not a fantasy at all — might have been useful for you to mention to your readers, so that they could understand the full picture of what is actually happening in court, when people seek to defend their constitutional rights against government overreaching.  We understand that you disagree with those rulings, but you should at least acknowledge that your opinion has already been rejected by most of the federal courts that have considered these cases.

Yes, that’s correct — what the professor called a “fantasy” is a legal principle that has been found persuasive by at least 22 federal courts so far.  It actually is not that odd a concept — people don’t surrender their constitutional rights because they choose to carry on a business.

You might have expected the Times to give their readers the full context of the story.  Well, actually, I don’t expect it, since I never expect fairness from the Times.

What’s most interesting to me is the ideological blinders that the Times wears on this particular subject.  The Times itself is a for-profit corporation, and they ardently defend their own First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press.  Isn’t it strange that in the fantasy legal world of the Times, other organizations aren’t permitted to enjoy their own First Amendment rights — especially when they disagree with the Times?

More Bad Omens for Religious Liberty

Monday, June 6th, 2011

The legislative battle over the re-definition of marriage is nearing a climax, as the end to the regular legislative session in Albany on June 20 approaches.

As this latest deadline draws near, the offensive against religious opponents to the bill has ramped up.  In recent weeks, State Senator Ruben Diaz of the Bronx — a Protestant clergyman who has been heroic on this issue, as well as in the defense of human life — has been the object of ugly, disgusting attacks that are so vile that I will not reproduce them here.

Everyone can understand that emotions run high in debates of this kind.  But it is very, very disturbing for religious leaders to be the target of these virulent and depraved kinds of abuse.  We have constantly been urging and instructing our advocates to shun any kind of negativity in their opposition to the “Marriage Equality Act”.  I wonder if any of the proponents have been doing the same.

What’s most disturbing to me is that this nasty, vindictive attitude on the part of advocates for same-sex “marriage” bodes very ill for our religious liberties if the “Marriage Equality Act” is passed.  These threats are very real, as we have discussed before on this blog, and as is outlined in a new article in Catholic New York.

If this is the kind of nasty intolerance we are seeing now, before the bill is even passed, what does the future hold?

How Same-Sex “Marriage” Threatens Religious Liberty

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

In this blog, I have often noted that the re-definition of marriage would threaten the religious liberty of those persons and institutions that uphold the authentic definition of marriage as one man and one woman.

Same-sex “marriage” advocates scoff at this, and claim that their bill contains an exemption for clergy who do not wish to solemnize same-sex “marriages”, and that this should allay any fear that the re-definition of marriage will infringe upon religious freedom.

The reality is that this “exception” is meaningless — the First Amendment would never permit the state to force clergy to engage in religious rites that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

The real threat to religious liberty from re-defining marriage is that these bills fail to include an exemption that would permit individuals and organizations to decline to recognize same-sex “marriages” in other contexts, beyond religious ceremonies.   Without a genuine religious liberty exception in the law, same-sex “spouses” will be able to bring complaints against religious institutions, businesses, and individuals under various state and local anti-discrimination and human rights laws — none of which were ever envisioned as applying to same-sex “marriage”.

If marriage is re-defined, religious organizations will inevitably face threats to their liberties in these areas:

  • Public grants and contracts — State law requires that no organization that receives funds under a state contract or grant may discriminate on the basis of marital status — which would include a same-sex couple, if marriage is re-defined.  As a result, many Catholic institutions — all our hospitals and social service agencies, and maybe even include Catholic schools that receive state textbook or technology aid — could lose state contracts, and may be forced to close their doors as a result of their refusal to recognize same-sex “marriages”.  This has already happened to adoption and foster care agencies in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, and is being considered in Illinois and Virginia.
  • Employment — There is a very narrow exemption in current state anti-discrimination laws that permits religious organizations to hire those of the same faith or those who will promote their religious mission.  There is a similar narrow exemption under federal law, called the “ministerial exemption”, but the extent of this is currently being challenged before the Supreme Court.  These exemptions do not apply to a large number of positions at religious organizations, such as administrative staff.  As a result, churches and religious organizations would be required to hire people in same-sex “marriages” — and provide them with the same benefits they provide to spouses.
  • Professional Licenses — There are approximately 49 professions that require state licenses (e.g., lawyers, doctors, and nurses).  The state may seek to revoke the license of anyone who “discriminates” against a same-sex “marriage” couple. Students in professional training programs have already been threatened with the denial of licenses for failing to recognize same-sex “marriages”.
  • Business Permits — There are approximately 434 types of businesses that require state licenses or permits.  State licenses are also required for health clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, educational institutions, and social services agencies.  These businesses may see their licenses at risk if they “discriminate” against same-sex “marriage” couples.
  • Education — Health and family life education, which are required by the state, will be adjusted to include the recognition of same-sex “marriage”.  Parents of public school children have only limited rights to opt their children out of these classes.  In other countries, efforts have been made to require religious schools to teach messages about homosexuality that are contrary to their religious mission.
  • Tax Exempt Status — Religious and other non-profit organizations are typically granted tax exempt status, freeing them from the burden of income, property and sales taxes.  The United States Supreme Court has already held that such a tax ruling may be revoked if the organization’s religious beliefs and practices violate “public policy”.  This has already happened to a Methodist organization that declined to recognize same-sex “marriages”.
  • Exclusion from Public Facilities — Religious and other organizations that decline to recognize same-sex “marriages” may be denied access to public facilities for events, such as parklands, campgrounds, public message boards to announce events, etc. This has already happened to the Boy Scouts.
  • Proponents of same-sex “marriage” often accuse us of fear-mongering, and of over-stating these threats to liberty.  But prominent legal scholars — both supporters and opponents of same-sex “marriage” — have recognized the inevitable conflict between same-sex “marriage” laws and the religious liberties of organizations and individuals.

    One of the fundamental principles of religious liberty is that people should not be excluded from ordinary participation in civic life, or from receiving benefits or privileges from the government, merely because of their beliefs. Without a robust provision recognizing the right to decline to recognize same-sex “marriage” based on one’s religious beliefs, re-defining marriage will begin a long, costly and difficult legal struggle in courts and “human rights commissions”, with a steady and irreversible decline in religious liberty.

    For information about what you can do to prevent this, please check out the Family Life/Respect Life Office website.

    A Glimpse Into the Future

    Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

    As the push for same-sex “marriage” builds in New York, recent news events have allowed us to see into the future, to get an idea of what the world will be like if the definition of marriage is changed.

    First, a little background.  In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by virtually unanimous majorities, and the bill was signed into law by President Clinton.  It defines marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman, and it provides that states will not be required to recognize any other kind of “marriage”, just because other states have changed their definition.

    DOMA has been challenged several times in the courts.  Three separate federal courts have upheld it as a proper and reasonable exercise of Congressional authority.  One court has found that it is unconstitutional and lacks a rational foundation.  (That decision, by the way, contains the single most absurd statement ever made by a federal judge — that the difference between same-sex couples and different-sex couples was a “distinction without meaning.”  Some things are so silly that only a federal judge could believe them).  Several state supreme courts — including New York’s — have also upheld the same definition of marriage as is contained in DOMA, holding that the definition has a “rational basis” and is not discriminatory.

    That wasn’t good enough for the President, who announced earlier this year that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA.  This,  even though the Justice Department has long held that they have a duty to defend statutes with which they disagree, if there is a reasonable argument to support it.  Apparently, the decisions of multiple federal and state courts are not reasonable enough for this ideologically blinded Administration.

    Faced with this dereliction of duty, the leadership of the House of Representatives engaged the services of Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General and a very accomplished Supreme Court advocate, to represent the people of the United States in defending DOMA.

    What happened next provides us a clear glimpse into where we are going on this issue.  “Gay rights” groups, seeking to force all opposition to same-sex “marriage” out of the mainstream, began a campaign of intimidation aimed at forcing Mr. Clement’s law firm to withdraw from the case out of fear of negative press, restriction of access to top law schools for recruiting, and loss of clients. Instead of fulfilling their professional responsibilities to their client, the firm buckled — and didn’t even have the guts to admit why they were doing it.  In response, Mr. Clement resigned from the firm and will carry on his defense of DOMA with a new firm.

    Interestingly, Mr. Clement’s old firm has given pro bono representation to suspected terrorists incarcerated in Guantanamo, but can’t get up the nerve to defend a duly-enacted statute defending the definition of marriage that has always been understood by our society, and that has been repeatedly upheld against constitutional challenge.

    This is a glimpse into the future.  We will be seeing more and more of this kind of “soft persecution” of those who oppose same-sex “marriage” — we will be marginalized, stigmatized, and frozen out of public life and even professional work.  It will be a test of moral courage to see how people respond.

    Varia

    Thursday, December 30th, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a statement regarding the Holy Father’s comment about condoms.  In essence — there were no changes in Church teaching, as any attentive reader would already have understood.
  • Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of a hospital that approved an abortion (and which has been involved in cooperation with contraception, sterilization and abortion in other cases) and that refused to acknowledge the bishop’s authority to oversee their compliance with Catholic ethics.  Story and Bishop’s Olmstead’s full statement.
  • Rather than humbly submitting to the judgment of the Bishop, the Catholic Health Association has once again wounded unity in the Church by siding with the hospital against the Bishop.  Amazing, since the Ethical and Religious Directives, which is cited as authoritative by CHA, gives the ultimate moral authority to the diocesan Bishop, not to CHA or to the hospital.
  • More facts about the situation, directly from Bishop Olmstead.  For those who want the Canon Law side of the story, check out this analysis.
  • One of the tactics of the same-sex “marriage” movement is to brand us all as “haters”.  The strategy is to “marginalize, privatize, anathematize”.
  • Meanwhile, this headline says it all: “Obama ‘wrestling’ with same-sex marriage”.  Yeah, as if the outcome of that wrestling match is really in doubt.
  • It appears that Sonia Sotomayor is now a leader of the “liberal wing” of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court.  This will, no doubt, become even more evident when the first abortion or “same-sex marriage” case reaches Mount Olympus.
  • A Ugandan Archbishop decries child sacrifice, which is rampant in that troubled nation.  The Cult of Moloch lives on.
  • Speaking of the demon and his devotees, the Temple of Moloch, er, I mean Planned Parenthood, has ejected one of its chapters because they didn’t want to perform abortions.  Oh, but they’re just “pro-choice”, not “pro-abortion”, right?
  • While the Cult of Moloch continues to say that crisis pregnancy centers mislead pregnant girls, check out Kathryn Jean Lopez’s piece on the MTV show “16 and Pregnant”, and you’ll understand how our culture and the abortion industry consistently and blatantly lie to pregnant women.
  • Some useful advice from scientists — really.  If you want your relationship to survive, make sure you speak about “we”, instead of “you and me”.  You could also follow their advice delay sex until marriage, which can strengthen your relationship.
  • What do men want more than anything else from the women in their lives?  To be admired.   Here’s the other side of the story — what women want is to be loved by a man they admire.  Now that’s an agenda for a good marriage.
  • (Please note that these links will take you to websites that are not affiliated with the Archdiocese.  We neither take responsibility for nor endorse the contents of the websites.)

    Varia

    Friday, December 3rd, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • The Holy Father conducted the first-ever world-wide Vigil for All Nascent Human Life.  Here’s an early, unofficial translation of the homily.  And here’s an unofficial translation of the special prayer written by the Holy Father for the Vigil.
  • Opponents of same-sex “marriage” — like the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage — have now been labeled as “hate groups” by a prominent advocacy group.  The “sit down and shut up” phase of the debate over marriage continues.  Next will come prosecutions for “hate crimes” and “human rights” violations, based solely on politically-incorrect speech.  Oh, wait — that’s happening already in Mexico.
  • Maggie Gallagher and Robert George respond to having pro-marriage organizations — and traditional Christianity — branded as “hate groups”.
  • The indispensible Kathryn Jean Lopez puts the Holy Father’s condom and sex comments in the context of the importance of marriage and true human sexuality and interviews Fr. Robert Williams and sheds some clear light on the Holy Father’s condom comments.
  • More good news on the stem cell front.  A child has been fully cured from leukemia thanks to treatment by adult stem cells from umbilical cords.  And scientists have “tricked” cells to convert from one kind to another, which may make stem cell research unnecessary.  Reaction from the media:       .
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (and Abortionists) is once again trying to force doctors to refer or perform abortions, under the rubric of “professional ethics”.  Hence the need for a federal comprehensive conscience protection statute.  GOP leaders, are you listening?
  • I’m a Mac, iPod and iTunes user, so it’s nice to know that in return for all the money I’ve given them, the Apple Corporation thinks I’m a bigot, merely because I subscribe to the principles in the Manhattan Declaration.  For a reminder of what’s in this “hate speech” declaration (which is all about defending life, marriage, and religious liberty), go here.  While you’re there, join over 34,000 others in signing the petition protesting Apple’s intolerance.
  • It has become ever more clear that the Administration is failing in its duty to defend the Defense of Marriage Act from attack by same-sex “marriage” advocates.
  • The perfect proof that reproductive medicine treats human life as a commodity:  they’re putting bar codes on IVF embryos.
  • A terrible story about the modern sex slave trade, right here in New York City.  Why is this not a high priority for law enforcement?
  • Interesting how the Times buries a story about how Cardinal Ratzinger tried, as far back as 1988, to streamline the procedures to punish abusive priests.  No room for the story on the front page, where they’ve previously put the “exposes”, although they manage to squeeze in a story about obesity surgery.  It’s not so newsworthy if it’s favorable to the Holy Father, I guess.
  • The Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, publicly rebukes the Catholic governor for his comments that his faith impels him to sign a bill legalizing same-sex “civil unions”.  The governor replies, in classic modern fashion, “I follow my conscience. I think everyone should do that. I think that’s the most important thing to do in life, and my conscience is not kicking me in the shins today.”  He needs a new, authentically Catholic conscience.
  • When the world throws God out the window, there’s no stopping the descent into madness.  A “family law expert” in the UK says that sex offenders should be allowed to work with children, and even adopt or serve as foster parents.  As the Safe Environment Director of the Archdiocese, all I can say is, “over my dead body”.
  • By Order of the Court, All Defenders of Real Marriage are Irrational Bigots

    Friday, July 9th, 2010

    I’ve mentioned on several occasions that there is a movement in our nation to stigmatize anyone who opposes same-sex “marriage” as a bigot.  Yesterday, yet another of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers in the Courts — I’m sorry, I mean a federal judge — has advanced that movement even further.

    A federal district judge in Massachusetts yesterday struck down certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), claiming that it is unconstitutional.  You may recall that DOMA was passed  by Congress in 1996 by huge majorities (85-14 in the Senate, 342-67 in the House), and signed into law by President Clinton.  It guarantees two significant things — that for the purposes of federal law and benefits the word “marriage” means only a bond between a man and a woman, and that states cannot be required to grant legal recognition to same-sex “marriages” entered into in other states.  In fact, DOMA was considered to be so strong a law that it was used as the excuse by many legislators for declining to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage in our Constitution as being between one man and one woman.

    This is a simple, common-sense law, and it is supported by wide margins in every public opinion poll ever taken.  But of course, in our judge-ocracy, that is not good enough.  Enter the district court in Massachusetts, which found that parts of DOMA violated the principles of federalism, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The court’s legal reasoning, such as it is, doesn’t require too much comment, beyond the observation of legal scholar Ed Whalen that “This ruling strikes me as just plain nuts.”  I couldn’t agree more.  How can it violate the Constitution for the federal government to define what a word means, for the purposes of enforcing federal laws?  And how can it violate “equal protection” to treat relationships that are fundamentally different in a disparate way?

    Two things about this ruling are most significant to me.  First is the statement by the court that:

    … where, as here, there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class [i.e., those in same-sex “marriages”] is different, in relevant respects from a similarly situated class [i.e., those in man-woman marriages], this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification.

    Yes, a United States court couldn’t figure out any difference between a man-woman marriage and a same sex relationship, and then proceeded to call every person who is a believing member of virtually every major religious group — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, whatever — an irrational bigot.  Talk about irrational.

    The second significant thing was the approach taken by the Administration in this litigation.  Ordinarily, it’s the duty of the Justice Department to defend the constitutionality of federal statutes.  Unfortunately, the agenda of this Administration, which strongly favors “gay rights” in general and same-sex “marriage” in particular, trumped the duty of the Justice Department.  Instead of defending the reasons underlying DOMA, the Justice Department instead told the court that it “does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing.”   In other words, the Administration gave the judge a nod and a wink, implicitly telling him that they would like him to void the law.

    There are many issues involved in these kinds of case:  the replacement of democracy by a judicial oligarchy, the inversion of values in our culture, the willingness of elites to impose their agendas on the people.  To me, the worst thing is the growing momentum behind the marginalization of religious persons, branding us as bigots.  That has frightening implications for the future.

    Erasing the First Amendment

    Thursday, July 8th, 2010

    When we all studied American History and Civics 101 in school, we were taught that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees religious liberty to all.  It ensures that the government cannot interfere with religious belief or practice, nor canthe state reward or punish religious people or groups for their beliefs.  All religions are to be treated equally, with no favoritism or legal restrictions.  It’s to enjoy this specific freedom that the early settlers, and many of our ancestors, came to this country.  It’s part of what makes America great.

    Too bad that the Supreme Court has been on a path to erase the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    This has nothing to do with the issue of prayer in public schools or copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.  It has everything to do with marginalizing and penalizing religious practices that are not popular with the current powers that be.

    The first major instance of this came in 1990, in the case of Employment Division v. Smith.  The case involved the denial of unemployment benefits to several Native Americans, pursuant to a rule that denied benefits to anyone who couldn’t pass a drug test.  But the reason they couldn’t pass the test is because they used the drug peyote in their religious practices — much as we use wine at Mass.  They challenged the law, claiming that it would force them to violate their religious beliefs.

    The Supreme Court held that they were properly denied the benefits, because the government is not required under the Constitution to grant exceptions to neutral laws that apply to all people, even if that law imposes a burden on a person’s religious liberty.  In essence, the Court held that the government can require a person to forego their religious practices — to give up their sacraments — in order to qualify for benefits.

    In one decision, the Court essentially gutted the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment.  The irony is that the majority opinion was by a man whose religion is frequently a subject for attention and comment — the Catholic Justice Scalia.

    The most recent shredding of religious liberty came last week, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  This case arose at a public university law school — an arm of a state government.  The Christian Legal Society, an interfaith group of law students, adoped rules that required all its officers and members to subscribe to a basic tenet of Christian moral teaching — that sexual relations are properly reserved only to a man and woman joined in a marriage.  The school denied the organization recognition because of this provision “discriminated” against personw who are engaged in homosexual acts and relationships. The effect of this was to deny the Christian students access to funding and activites that were open to all other kinds of groups (including, ironically, a “gay and lesbian” association).

    The Supreme Court upheld the denial of recognition to the group, holding that the school could require that all student organizations accept anyone who applies, both as members and as leaders.  In essence, the Court decided that the state government has the power to regulate the identity and message of religious organizations, and can force them to accept people who deny or undermine the integrity of their beliefs.  And, by implication, the Court’s decision means that a religious group cannot be a full participant in the “marketplace of ideas” unless its beliefs conform to current standards of political correctness.  In other words, the government can play favorites among religious groups — granting “equal” access to those it approves, and denying it to those it disapproves.

    So much for the “free exercise” and “free association” rights that are supposedly guaranteed under the First Amendment.

    This decision was written by Justice Ginsburg, but was joined by two Catholic Justices, Kennedy and Sotomayor.  Since this was Justice Sotomayor’s first foray into religious liberty jurisprudence, it does not bode well for how she will rule in future cases.

    There is a movement afoot in America to stigmatize religious people who uphold traditional moral teaching (particularly about homosexuality and other sexual subjects) as bigots who do not have to be tolerated in the public square.  Whether they knew so or not, the Justices of the Supreme Court have advanced that agenda and, in doing so, have reduced the liberties of all.

    Oh, Yes, So Very, Very Tolerant

    Saturday, February 20th, 2010

    The forces of “tolerance” are on the move again, and have found their most recent victim.  The Archdiocese of Washington, faced with an unjust law that would have required them to recognize the validity of same-sex “marriages”, has been forced to withdraw from foster care and adoption services.

    The basic facts are very simple.  The District of Columbia government was dead set on recognizing same-sex “marriages”, and had little regard for anything that stood in their way or any of the consequences.   Remember, the City government refused to allow the proposed bill to be voted on as a referrendum, refused to grant a reasonable religious exemption despite repeated requests by the Archdiocese, and imposed such a rigorous schedule for compliance with the law that Catholic Charities had little choice but to close down their program.  This was accompanied by a propaganda campaign that accused the Church of turning her back on the poor, even though, all along, it was the City government that was shoving the Church out the door.

    This is not unprecedented.  Catholic Charities in Boston was forced to surrender its adoption services in the face of the Massachusetts same-sex “marriage” law, after the state legislature refused to grant an exemption.  And a few years ago, here in New York, we were lucky that the Court of Appeals struck down a New York City law that would have required all city contractors to recognize same-sex “marriages” — but they rejected the law on technical grounds, not because of the infringement of religious liberty.

    Nor will it be the last time that it happens.  Other cities and states are likely to try similar tactics.   The legal community is unlikely to help.  After all, the Administration has nominated a person to serve on an important federal civil rights panel who believes that when “gay rights” and religious liberties collide, the rights of churches should lose.

    In his famous letter in 1790 to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, President George Washington pledged that the government of the United States would respect the religious liberty of all, demanding only that they be good citizens.  The letter is worth quoting here:

    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.

    President Washington’s promise is not being honored, in the city that bears his name.  Will it be honored elsewhere?