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Letter: Follow Washington's inclusive example

This is a tribute to George Washington whose birthday was celebrated on Feb. 22. He did many special things to help start our country, and I will point to just one of them.

Washington put an exclamation point on the religious freedom and inclusiveness guaranteed by the Constitution after it was finally ratified by Rhode Island on May 29, 1790 (with just a two-vote margin). Rhode Island was the last of the 13 colonies/states to do so. Please keep in mind that the Bill of Rights was added to the original framework to achieve ratification.

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Later that summer, Washington and other notables made a good-will visit to Rhode Island. In the first part of the visit at Newport, Washington was presented with letters of welcome, including one by a local Jewish leader. The details are covered in: "The Story Behind the George Washington Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, August 21, 1790." The story and letters are online.

Basically, Washington's letter assures the congregation that it is included under the Constitution's protection. (For the scholar, Washington's reference to "...vine and fig tree" is likely from Micah 4:4 in the Hebrew Bible.) To Washington, the Constitution was for all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation.

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I wish that all elected and appointed public officials would follow Washington's inclusiveness example, especially since they did not have to meet a religious test for office. Part of the original framework of the Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3, explicitly bars such a test.

Dan Bridgewater

Westminster

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