The fourth Thursday in November is celebrated as Thanksgiving in the United States.
In significant measure, America was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. The Pilgrims were seeking a haven where they could practice their faith without fear of government interference or reprisal.
In 1621, in what is now the state of Massachusetts, European settlers and American Indians came together in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. In 1789, George Washington, the first U.S. president, issued a proclamation of thanksgiving for what he called "the peaceful and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness. . . .and the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed."
Today, religious freedom remains a treasured right. It represents the freedom to seek, know, and serve God according to the dictates of one's own conscience. The American impulse to protect and champion this freedom was born out of history. The U.S. resolve to promote fundamental rights is enriched by the priority that many Americans place on religious faith. Here is President George W. Bush:
"We are a nation founded by men and women who deeply felt their dependence on God and always gave Him thanks and praise. . . .We have much to be thankful for: our families, our friends, our beautiful country, and the freedom granted to each one of us by the Almighty."
From the Revolutionary War in 1775, the Civil War in 1861, and two world wars in the twentieth century, many Americans have sacrificed to preserve that freedom. This year is no exception. “Today, many. . . .courageous men and women are securing our peace in places far from home,” said President Bush “and we pay tribute to them and to their families for their service, sacrifice, and strength.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting American ideals and institutions.