With all the recent talk about culture wars, intolerance, and dogmatic virtuecrats on both the Right and Left, it is fitting to recall a proud chapter from our country's past that took place in the village of Vlishing (now called Flushing), on Long Island, in 1657, while England was embroiled in civil war. I recently saw a book review about the Flushing Remonstrance and remember learning about the event, as well as Susan B. Anthony, George C. Rogers, and other bits of American history, from my stamp collecting days. It was a formal letter of protest to Governor Stuyvesant, who had decreed that Quakers and other religious noncomformists should be banned. It set a precedent for multicultural tolerance and pluralism, which became fundamental cultural norms as the colonies evolved toward independent nationhood. It should remind us all that public policy and laws should never coerce people into behaving according to the norms of any particular denomination. That principle might not be enough to settle the Terri Schiavo controversy, for example, but it certainly would accord professional pharmacists the right to dispense or not dispense medications and treatments as their own ethical standards dictate. For the full text, see www.nyym.org/flushing/remons.html
UPDATE: Donald Sensing talks about religious tolerance in light of the overtures by new Pope Benedict XVI toward the Muslim world. Given the ongoing persecution of Christians and "blasphemers" in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, it would seem that reciprocity in that regard is a long way off.