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Freedom of Religion - is it a Civil Right?

"The peace we seek is nothing less than the practice and

fulfillment of our whole faith.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower

With the colonies and the United States founded on a belief in “divine Providence” and a firm reliance on God, it is appropriate that the nation’s motto became In God We Trust. Because there was a resurgence of religion during the Civil War, Secretary of Treasury William Seward in 1864, pushed through Congress the request to engrave In God We Trust on the one and two penny coins.

FDC Image Stamp Gettysburg Address

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In 1928, the U.S. Postal Service included the phrase on a George Washington commemorative stamp, but it was the 1954 stamp issue that became a point of pride. The 8-cent common stamp was sufficient for international postage. Because it was issued during the Cold War, it would become “our postal ambassador” with the Statue of Liberty beacon shining on In God We Trust. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed a law making it our national motto and in 1957, Congress mandated that the phrase be included on all coins and paper money.

Unfortunately over the years, religious differences have caused intolerance, discrimination and violence toward various religious groups. Puritans and Catholics fled England looking for lands that would allow them to practice their religion, free from oppression. In 1790, President Washington wrote to a Hebrew congregation assuring them their rights of citizenship included religious freedom. But on February 10, 1846 Brigham Young led his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints west across the frozen Mississippi River fleeing the violence and hatred they faced in the U.S. By early 1848 the Mormons had established a permanent home along the Mexican controlled Great Salt Lake, but freedom from persecution was short-lived. The Mormon’s haven became a U.S. territory after its victory in the Mexican-American War. Over one hundred years later, in the height of the civil rights movement, a law that included protections for religious freedom was passed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, in addition to barring discrimination based on race, national origin and sex, also barred discrimination based on religion.

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In this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. --- George Washington

 

 

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