Religious Liberty is the Foundation of the United States of America

Below is an example of how the Founding Fathers understood the issue of “religious liberty” in our country from the beginning. It is a letter written by then-president Thomas Jefferson in response to a letter from the sisters of the Ursuline Convent, New Orleans, Louisiana, after the French colony of Louisiana was transferred to the jurisdiction of the United States of America via the Louisiana Purchase. The sisters were concerned about how the United States would regard their religious freedom.

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Washington May 15, 1804

To the Soeur Terese de St. Xavier Farjon, Superior, and the Nuns of the Order of St. Ursula at New Orleans.

I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana. The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules without interference from the civil authority. Whatever diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution cannot be indifferent to any; and it’s furtherance of the wholesome purposes of society, by training up it’s younger members in the way they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the government it is under. Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.

I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship and respect,

Thomas Jefferson
President of the United States of America