The Hoover Institution hosted "'Church, Synagogue, and State' - On Religion and American Government" on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 from 8:30am - 9:45am EST.
Today, Americans are generally taught to think about the "separation of church and state." But this is only one part of the Nation's story. And to focus exclusively on this "separation" risks missing the crucial contributions that religious belief and religious believers - including Judaism and Jewish Americans - have made to the American founding.
Last year, in a speech criticizing those who would invoke religion as a barrier to government office, Senator Mike Lee invoked Jonas Phillips, "a penniless Jewish immigrant, an indentured servant, a hard-working businessman, and an American patriot who served in the Philadelphia Militia during the Revolutionary War," who urged George Washington and the framers not to allow religious tests for public office.
Many years after Phillips's successful plea, Phillips's grandson, Uriah Levy, purchased Monticello from Thomas Jefferson's descendants, helping to preserve this part of America's founding heritage-an account recalled recently by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Rabbi Soloveichik further explores these themes in "Jewish Ideas and the American Founders," a new online course presented by the Tikvah Fund.
The Hoover Institution hosted both Senator Lee and Rabbi Soloveichik for a discussion of the proper relationship between religion and American government, and the contributions that biblical ideas have made to American political thought.
Senator Mike Lee is a United States Senator from the State of Utah.
Rabbi Meir Soloveichik is Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, the oldest congregation in the United States; he is the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.
The discussion was moderated by Adam White, a Hoover Institution research fellow. This is part of Hoover's DC speaker series, Opening Arguments: Conversations on American Constitutionalism.