Patty and I and our grandson, Blake, toured the refurbished Minnesota State Capitol last weekend. It is a truly remarkable restoration of a truly remarkable monument to the People.
Around the Capitol are inspiring inscriptions. At the same time, being built within 50 years of the end of the Civil War, it has many exhibits of that conflict, as well as the Dakota Conflict of 1862. It is a sobering reminder that in our country and in our state, we have done things that today would make us cringe.
Knowing that we as persons and as a people are imperfect, we attempt to look back at our history, warts and all, and try to make our selves and our country better.
In that spirit, here is one of the quotations inscribed throughout the Minnesota State Capitol that struck me as relevant to the issue of tolerance. I’ll feature others in upcoming blog entries.
Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state of persuasion, religious or political … Jefferson Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, is a wealth of quotes on religious liberty.
Jefferson wrote a forerunner of the First Amendment right to Religious Liberty for the Virginia General Assembly, meeting on January 16, 1786. “The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is a statement about both freedom of conscience and the principle of separation of church and state.”
Jefferson was out of the country, representing the United States in France, when the Constitution was being drafted and argued. He did write to James Madison, advocating the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution enshrining for our country the right of citizens to religious liberty free from interference by the federal government.
In his day, of course, religious toleration referred to Catholicism or Protestantism (or even among the different Protestant sects), with a passing nod to Judaism. I have little doubt that, had Muslims been a significant part of the colonists, Jefferson would have included them, too.
 Founding Faith, Steven Waldman, p 138-139 (Random House 2008)