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Religious Exhibit Set to Debut in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – Documents key in the founding of America will highlight the National Constitution Center’s “Religious Liberty and the Founding of America” exhibit. Running from August 21 through January 3, 2016, the religious exhibit features 20 historic documents that reveal how religious freedom became a right guaranteed by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The center timed the exhibit to correspond with the visits of Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama to Philadelphia this fall. During the World Meeting of Families event on September 22 through 25, the center will offer discounted admission. The exhibit is free with museum admission.

“‘Religious Liberty and the Founding of America’ explores the role of religion during the time of America’s founding, as well as the debate surrounding religious liberty today,” said Jeffrey Rosen, National Constitution Center president and CEO.

The exhibit divides into three areas of focus, including The Legacy of Religious Liberty. George Washington’s First Thanksgiving Proclamation lies on display where he declared, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God.” Letters from Thomas Jefferson on the First Amendment and from Washington to religious groups also appear in this section.

The Religious Liberty in Colonial America section showcases various religious artifacts, including a printing by Benjamin Franklin for a 1741 piece written by William Penn about religious tolerance. Among others, James Madison’s draft of the Bill of Rights and Virginia’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom by Jefferson, walk guests through the spread of religious freedom.

18th century newspaper reports highlight the Religious Liberty in the Constitution section. One standout piece is James Madison’s speech to the House of Representatives proposing 19 amendments to the constitution. Displays focus on how the First Amendment developed into its final version.

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