2013 is a special year for Newport, for Rhode Island and for the nation. It is the 350th anniversary of the Rhode Island Colonial Charter, one of the nation’s earliest compacts to affirm religious toleration and freedom. It is the 250th anniversary of the completion of Newport’s Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in America and the place in 1790 where President George Washington reaffirmed the importance of civil liberties and citizenship regardless of religion. And 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Peace. The connecting theme between these three historic anniversaries is the recognition of all people’s inherent rights of personal and civil freedoms.
As we celebrate the importance of our cherished freedoms in America, we should also recognize that well before civil and human rights leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglas, and Martin Luther King, there was a bold minister in 18th century Newport who had the audacity to believe – and preach – that all men were created equal. Continue reading