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Grace M.
Democrat NY 6

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  • Flushing Remonstrance

    by Representative Grace Meng

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    MENG. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my legislation, the Flushing Remonstrance Study Act, H.R. 3222.

    This bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of the Flushing Remonstrance and significant local resources. The Flushing Remonstrance is an important part of my local history, and I would like to take a few moments to discuss its origins and influence on our country.

    The Quakers of the mid-17th century were prohibited from practicing their religious traditions in the New Netherland, which included parts of what is now New York State. In response, a group of local activists wrote the Remonstrance as a declaration against religious persecution. Although 356 years old, its intent still shines brightly in the ideals our Nation embraces today.

    On December 27, 1657, 30 English citizens stood against oppression and asserted the rights of Quakers and other religious minorities to practice their religion.

    They wrote: We desire . . . not to judge lest we be judged, neither to condemn lest we be condemned, but rather let every man stand or fall to his own master.

    This petition, known as the Flushing Remonstrance, made a forceful argument against judging and condemning others for what they believed. It was met with great opposition from the local government in what is known today as Flushing, Queens.

    One of the greatest and most outspoken proponents of religious freedom at the time was an English immigrant named John Bowne. At great risk to himself, John invited the Quakers to hold religious services in his own home. He was arrested for doing so, fined, and then banished to his homeland of Holland for his crimes. While in Holland, John Bowne appealed to the influential Dutch West India Company to return home. His pleas of justice were accepted. Because of Bowne's empathy and strong convictions for religious freedom, the company demanded that religious persecution end in the colony.

    {time} 1215 Bowne's story of personal courage should not be forgotten. Our Nation was founded upon the ideals that foster a tolerant society, the same ideals that Bowne practiced every time he opened his door to a Quaker seeking refuge from persecution. Bowne's home, which served as a symbol of religious freedom to so many, was converted into a museum in 1947 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

    It is important that we continue to preserve and understand the historical significance of the Remonstrance, strengthening its ties to the Queens community and beyond. To help achieve this goal, I introduced the Flushing Remonstrance Study Act, which will help the Queens community connect to its rich past in possibly new and exciting ways. The Bowne House could benefit from further Federal study; and other associated locations, such as the Quaker Meeting House, should be considered for registry.

    [[Page H7611]] The story of the Flushing Remonstrance is not for New Yorkers alone. It is a precursor to a fundamental right to practice one's religion. It is a value in our First Amendment. I am proud to represent a district that tended to the early roots of religious freedom that have now grown into an unquestionable American right. I hope the Flushing Remonstrance Study Act and the December 27 anniversary will help us all remember the courage of John Bowne and the passion for religious freedom held by the authors of the Flushing Remonstrance.


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