All posts tagged: Providence

Touro Synagogue

Let’s take a road trip to help understand the history behind religious liberty

In following coverage of the fight over the Supreme Court*, don’t worry if you have become confused about the concept of religious liberty. Those making the most noise either do not understand — or do not want to understand — this fundamental First Amendment right enshrined in the Constitution. People who should know better often sow confusion around the history and meaning of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Before we go all 2020 and take a virtual road trip to visit the places that help us see why the religious persecution faced by earlier generations led to this all-important amendment, let’s begin with a quick summary of why religious liberty is on the radar screen today. Recently two justices on the Supreme Court couldn’t pass up the chance to comment as they joined the court’s unanimous decision not to hear the appeal of Kim Davis, a Kentucky public official who refused to issue marriage licenses because of her personal religious views against same-sex unions. Justices …

The First Baptist Church

Religious liberty and the founding myths

Growing up Baptist, I was schooled by my father of the dangers of having the government involved in religious life.  A New Deal Democrat and a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state, Daddy was a proud “Roger Williams” Baptist. So when Andrew attended Brown University in Providence, Candice and I made sure to stop at the Roger Williams National Memorial – administered by the National Park Service – where I picked up a copy of John Barry‘s Roger Williams and The Creation of the American Soul and sent it to my father. Last year I began hearing Kevin Kruse, the Princeton historian and author of One Nation Under God:  How Corporate America Invented Christian America interviewed on NPR and other outlets. Intrigued, I bought that book for my father as well, thinking it would strike a chord. We talked about both works before Daddy passed away, and I wrote a piece on this blog last year about how old places can help us understand the battles for religious freedom.  When I brought both …

Religious Freedom 101: A Lesson from Old Places

We are hearing a great deal these days about religious freedom. Much of it comes from individuals who appear – from their comments – to know little of our country’s history.  For the past three days, I’ve been immersed in a state where all Americans would be well advised to come for a class on Religious Freedom 101. One of the truly misunderstood stories in American history is that of Rhode Island and the establishment of religious freedom. My father – that lonely breed of Southern Christian liberal – has spent the past decade or more writing letters to the editor that remind his fellow church-goers of the importance of the separation of church and state. For my part, I’ve been in Providence and Newport this week, and took the time to visit two of the landmarks of the nation’s move to ensure that all had religious freedom, including the right not to worship. Friday, I was in Newport for a series of meetings that began at Touro Synagogue, a National Historic Landmark and an …

Music of Water + Fire

Saturday evening’s WaterFire Providence – an award-winning sculpture installation featuring 100 blazing bonfires floating atop the water of Providence’s rivers – was capped with a terrific Brown University Chorus concert of Water and Fire-theme music. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful fall Saturday of activities during the university’s family weekend. After a late-night Friday dinner at Gracie’s (if you go to Providence you must eat at Gracie’s, and then have breakfast at Ellie’s, the restaurant’s partner bakery), we slept in a bit on Saturday but made it up in time for a fascinating lecture as part of the Family Weekend Forums.  Professor of Medicine Richard Besdine spoke on Fit at 50, Sexy at 70, Nimble at 90:  The Fundamentals of Healthy Aging to a room full of parents who looked a great deal like us!  (He added the “Nimble at 90” part of the title on the fly, and noted that our children’s granddaughters – Andrew and Claire’s granddaughters – would have a life expectancy of 100.) While there wasn’t anything we hadn’t …