Religious Liberty: An American Experiment

From Toleration to Liberty: George Washington and the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island

Clock Two 50-minute class periods

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of religious liberty from the colonial period to the Founding era. They will assess legal and historical documents of toleration and/or liberty, analyze George Washington’s 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island and gain an appreciation of Washington’s letter as an example of the shift from religious toleration to religious liberty.

Founding Principles

Freedom of Religion image

Freedom of Religion

The freedom to exercise one's own religious beliefs without interference from the government is essential to the existence of a free society.

Inalienable / Natural Rights image

Inalienable / Natural Rights

Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.

Liberty image


Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

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