Congress Shall Make No Law: Religious Freedom in the United States
As I took a stroll from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, I had time to think and reflect on the past week. The whirlwind adventure that had only begun a week prior has already lent itself to new friends, exciting places and even more to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.
On Friday, we took a field trip to the Library of Congress. The last time I visited the Library of Congress, I was 10 years old, and suffice it to say this time I had a new appreciation for the magnificent artwork and attention to detail that adorned the walls.
After the official tour, we had the opportunity to view historical documents from the Hebraic section. Part of the collection included a letter from George Washington to the Jews of Newport Hebrew Congregation in which he promised an American commitment to religious freedom. Washington explained that the United States will give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." This letter served to reinforce the lessons we had been discussing earlier in the week about the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in the First Amendment.
This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, and while the interpretation may have evolved, it remains more important than ever to continue our efforts in defending this First Amendment right. Our livelihood both as Americans and Jews depends on the vitality of the First Amendment.
Jennifer Aaronson is a participant in the Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship Program, interning at Americans for Peace Now.