It would come as a surprise to George Washington to learn that the Texas State Board of Education is considering requiring students to learn that the United States is a Christian nation founded to advance Christian ideals.
In his letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, R.I., of 1790, Washington described our nation as one in which “all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.” Washington went further: “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,” he said. “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 . . . while every one shall sit under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
The Texas State Board of Education should note that Washington invoked this phrase from the Bible (Micah 4:4) to extend religious diversity, not to favor any particular religion.
AMBASSADOR JOHN L. LOEB JR.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, Chairman of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, New York
Among the great letters in the Times Magazine, a comment on, How Christian Were the Founders? (February 14, 2010):