Senator Durbin’s Lithuania Heritage and Freedom to Worship

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In the midst of the hysteria that some have created over plans to build an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan, comes this powerful statement from Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).  In the calm and thoughtful way that is his style, Sen. Durbin reminds us all of what is at stake in this debate: the values of freedom and tolerance that have made America a refuge for millions of immigrants. His story is the quintessential American story that must never be forgotten-  read an excerpt below:

There was only one thing left that I know was in her baggage from Lithuania and it is a prayer book.  It is a Catholic prayer book--  we’re a Catholic family and it was printed in 1860 in Lithuanian.  And my grandmother brought it to this country because when she left Lithuania in 1911 it was contraband.  The Russian czar had taken control of Lithuania and it dictated that no prayer books could be written in any language other than Russian.  Well my grandmother as defiant as she was, had this prayer book and she wasn’t going to surrender it--  she brought it with her to this country.  It said something about her but it said something about America that she knew that when she came here, her right to practice her religion as she saw it would always be protected by this constitution and this country. 

Listen to the entire speech here. 


“I hope that we show the same tolerance of people and other religions as we would expect of our own.” – Senator Dick Durbin, IL (August 30, 2010)