On the wall of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island–the oldest synagogue in America–is a letter from President George Washington welcoming the congregation to our shores. It is a moving document, for it affirms that this new nation, only a few years old, intends from the beginning to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded.
Washington eloquently states, “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 national gifts. 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.”
Here are the words of Newt Gingrich, welcoming another religious congregation: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” and “we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”
At least he can speak in complete sentences, unlike Sarah Palin, who tweeted her own strident opposition to the mosque with these words: “Doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”
My, how far we’ve come.