By Camille Taylor
During the Revolutionary War, the Second Continental Congress drafted a final copy of the Declaration of Independence which declared the original Thirteen Colonies independent from the mother country of England. It was voted on, and all Thirteen Colonies adopted it on July 4, 1776. The war was still going on, but there were muted celebrations of July 4th each year until the war ended in 1783.
The July 4th holiday was established which included speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks. It’s odd isn’t it, that as we celebrate Independence Day, Great Britain has declared its independence from the European Union. The result has already caused economic and political fallout.
THE FOUNDERS AND FAITH
When the American Constitution was ratified in 1787, the founding fathers also put into practice that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therefore,” which suggests that by law no particular group is to be treated as superior to another group in the United States.
In 1783, George Washington wrote that “the bosom of America is open to receive… the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom [Americans] shall welcome to a participation of all [their] rights and privileges… They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect.”
Likewise, Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence, wrote in a document for the Virginian colonial legislature that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the [Hindu], and infidel of every decimation” are accepted as equal citizens in the United States.
The US Constitution was ratified in 1788, which included the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The first amendment is freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. America has been the envy of many throughout the world as we enjoy these freedoms.
On Tuesday, Not In Our Town celebrated its 20th anniversary with a rally and march on the square in downtown Bloomington. Its mission is to stop hate, address bullying, and to make a safe, more inclusive community. The freedoms listed in the first amendment are exactly the things Not In Our Town works to maintain. As people attack others for their religion, race, and sexual orientation, Not In Our Town has worked to inoculate our community against hate. NIOT has been proactive in initiating dialogue, working with local schools and government, and being a presence in all facets of community life in an effort to fulfill its mission.
The founding fathers of our nation and the founders of NIOT had at least one important thing in common. They wanted to see their country and their communities live their lives fully and to be free to be whom they were created to be. This is the American ideal, and this is the essence of Not In Our Town. There is no room for hatred, bigotry, racism, isolationism, xenophobia, homophobia, antisemitism, or any of the other “isms” when people are trying to live, work, and raise their families not only in Bloomington/Normal, but in communities across this country.
So, while we celebrate our independence this weekend with parades, cookouts, and family, let us remember that “freedom is never free,” and blood was shed so that America could be a beacon of light around the world.