Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, a professor at Yeshiva College in New York, says religious liberty does not mean we need to water down our beliefs in order to get along. Rather, he says that people of different faiths must learn to live as both “stranger and friend“:
The rabbi explained that “America is the first country in a long time founded around an idea,” and that religious freedom “is the philosophical lynchpin of what lies at the heart of American ideals.”
This theory is evident throughout American history, he said.
To illustrate his point, Rabbi Soloveichik recounted the story of Jonas Phillips, a Jewish merchant living in the early United States. He explained that shortly after the formation of the country, Jews wishing to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature were required to swear an oath upon a Christian Bible, a blasphemous act for the Jewish people.
[Jonas] Phillips [a Jewish merchant], who had fought in the Revolutionary War alongside other Jews and Christians, found that this requirement was in opposition to the founding principles of the country, Soloveichik explained. The merchant sent a letter to George Washington protesting this practice and affirming that “all religious societies are on an equal footing.”