Reading of George Washington's Letter Blasts George Bush's Faith-Based Initiative

August 18, 2003

Source: The Providence Journal

On August 18, 2003 The Providence Journal reported that "more than 150 spectators and dignitaries packed into Touro Synagogue yesterday for a lesson on history, religion and, courtesy of Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, a firsthand demonstration of politics... There to witness the annual George Washington Letter Reading Ceremony, a ritual honoring the president's famous letter to the Colonial-era synagogue declaring the young republic's dedication to religious freedom and tolerance, they were instead treated to verbal jabs at President Bush... '[President Bush] uses the authority of the presidency to involve this government more fully in religious matter -- a danger to all religions, a danger to the survival of our democracy, a danger to our people,' Cicilline told the crowd yesterday... Washington's letter, penned Aug. 17, 1790, in response to an epistle he received from Moses Seixas, warden of the Touro congregation in Newport, has been read every year at the synagogue since 1948. Historians have trumpeted the letter as his affirmation that the United States would be a place of religious freedom -- something Cicilline, as well as other prominent Democrats in attendance, believes the Bush Administration has forgotten."