We're sure in the coming days we're going to hear a lot of grunting from Religious Right groups over President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo this morning.
After all, his address, intended to improve relations between Islam and the West, celebrated religious diversity, reached out to Muslims and discussed how important it is to tolerate the beliefs of others. Not exactly what the Religious Right would want to hear.
But Obama's speech provided our nation -- and the world -- with an accurate lesson in American history.
The president noted that America has always welcomed people of diverse opinions about religion.
"We are shaped," he said, "by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: 'Out of many, one.'"
The president cited the U.S. Treaty with Tripoli, which insists that "the Government of the United States of America...has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of [Muslims]." (And, we might add, insists that our government "is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.")
The Senate ratified the treaty in a unanimous vote in 1796, and it was endorsed by President John Adams. It was also printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and two New York newspapers without any evidence of public dissent.
The treaty serves to disprove what many on the right continue to teach – the false notion that our Founding Fathers meant for our country to be officially Christian.
Obama today urged adoption of religious liberty for all.
"People in every country," he said, "should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive....
"Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together," he continued. "We must always examine the ways in which we protect it."
Obama celebrated the role of Muslim-Americans, making it clear that they are an important part of our nation.
"American Muslims have enriched the United States," he said. "They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.... So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America."
Islam is part of America. Judaism is part of America. Christianity is part of America. And so are many, many other faith traditions, as well as those who follow no spiritual path at all.
It's what Americans United has been saying from the start, and we applaud Obama for upholding religious freedom and diversity in his speech today.