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On Freedom of Religion

The Rt. Rev. Nick Knisely, Bishop of Rhode Island, writes on his weblog, Entangled States, on speaking today at a press conference sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement:

The framers of the Bill of Rights knew the danger of giving a government the power to control how citizens were allowed to think and worship. They remembered the hundreds of years of war that Europe had then recently endured as nations used their religious beliefs to justify acts of war against their neighbors. They remembered how citizen turned against citizen using another person’s different way of praying or thinking to justify violence against their neighbor.

My Church of England tradition came to this country and had to give up its status as a government sanctioned faith. It took us years to learn that the American vision of freedom of religion, of the strict limitation that keeps our elected officials from prescribing any person’s faith or establishing one set of beliefs over another, is by far the better way. As a US citizen and as an Episcopalian, an Anglican, I cannot imagine our nation betraying its great visionary stance, one which has been followed again and again in new nations in the following centuries.

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