Flushing, Queens: America's Most Religiously Diverse City

June 22, 2001

Source: Religion and Ethics Newsweekly


On June 22, 2001 Religion and Ethics Newsweekly reported, "R. Scott Hanson wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago on 'City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, New York.' He is a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University. Flushing, Queens is the most religiously and ethnically diverse community in America, with a story that mirrors the nation in microcosm. Flushing's town charter of 1645 was the first in colonial America to grant religious freedom... Today in Flushing there are ten different places of worship just on Bowne Street, named for the Quaker who defended the town charter. Hindu and Buddhist temples, Sikh gurdwaras, Muslim mosques, and Korean and Chinese churches stand next to older churches that go back to the late 17th century and alongside Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish synagogues. Services in Catholic churches are conducted in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Protestant churches of every denomination abound, including over 100 Korean (mainly Presbyterian) churches alone. All of these different places of worship and the people who attend them are densely concentrated in a small residential and commercial area encompassing just a few square miles. After a certain point, though, it does not seem to make much difference if there are 15 or 150 different places of worship next door to each other. Flushing is interesting because it is such an extreme case and because of its place in the history of religious freedom in America, but how do people make sense of such religious diversity? How does it affect their lives, attitudes, and beliefs, if at all?"