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Shootings at Sikh Temple Test the Founding Faith of America

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But he also wanted America to be a welcoming place for the followers of all faiths. And he wanted the believers in Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians and, yes, Sikhs to be safe from threats and violence.

The United States still needs to achieve the "religious freedom" that Jefferson outlined at the founding of the republic. President Obama responded appropriately to the initial shock of Sunday's shootings, as did a number of other political leaders. But Obama should do more, especially now that the shooter has been linked with the white supremacist movement and so-called "white power" bands. There is a gun debate to be had. There is a tolerance debate to be had. There are real questions to be asked and answered about how a nation responds to hatred and the violence it breeds.

Obama should lead that debate. But the responsibility surely is not his alone. Others in positions of leadership (particularly those from the so-called "religious right" wing of the Republican Party) should do much more, to educate a changing nation about the necessity of tolerance and to celebrate America's rapidly expanding religious diversity.

Contemporary leaders, who so frequently fancy themselves to be heirs to the best of the founding tradition, must provide far greater leadership when it comes to assuring that people of faith, of every faith, shall not "suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief." That leadership will not attack the separation of church and state, nor favor one doctrine above another. It will recognize, finally and unequivocally, that all "shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

Nichols writes about politics (more...)
 
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