Religion: Places of Worship

Freedom of religion is an ideal that has contributed to remarkable religious and cultural diversity in the United States. Especially in recent decades, additional global religious groups have found the opportunity to worship freely here. Although religious beliefs sometimes divide people along ethnic or cultural lines, they can also bring diverse peoples together in shared faith and values. Faith-based groups often help integrate migrants into established communities, provide support in navigating life in America, and teach shared values and ideals that encourage broader civic involvement.

Refugees and Religious Organizations

Since the 1940s, the United States and the international community have provided more direct assistance to refugees, especially those fleeing countries with American involvement in an internal or international conflict. Often volunteer and religious organizations help to facilitate the migration and resettlement of children, families, and refugees who flee genocide, persecution, and political pressures.

Eliot Church Cambodian Choir, Lowell, Massachusetts, 2015

Eliot Church Cambodian Choir, Lowell, Massachusetts, 2015

Courtesy of Michael Sheu

Departing Cuba

Between 1960 and 1962, over fourteen thousand children traveled from Cuba to the United States. After the Cuban Revolution, Cuban parents feared for their children’s futures under communism. They entrusted the Catholic Church, aid societies, and the U.S. State Department to connect their children with awaiting relatives and friends. These groups also cared for children until the families could be reunited.

Dress brought from Cuba by Margarita Prats, around 1961

Gift of Margarita Lora

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Margarita and Lola Prats arriving in New York, 1961

Margarita and Lola Prats arriving in New York, 1961

Courtesy of The Post-Standard and Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, NY

Faith and Community

Religious institutions have provided support for communities in navigating life in America and encouraged broader civic involvement. While religious institutions have at times pushed people of differing views apart, many have also brought diverse peoples together in shared faith.

Residents of Moore, Oklahoma, gather for memorial service following deadly tornado, 2013

Residents of Moore, Oklahoma, gather for memorial service following deadly tornado, 2013

Courtesy of Sue Ogrocki-Pool/Getty Images

Baptist Church

Handheld church fans were often decorated and used in southern Pentecostal and Baptist churches. The image of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy brothers points to the connection between the role of the church and the fight for civil rights.

Baptist church fan, 1969–1975

Gift of Eleanor Dickinson

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Union Missionary Baptist Church, around 1960

Union Missionary Baptist Church, around 1960

Hindu Temple Society of North America

The Hindu Temple Society of North America, founded in 1970, was among the first and most prominent Hindu temples in the New York City area. This prototype of the temple’s religious symbol, once carved into the building, represents religious diversity through five of the world’s major faiths illuminated by the lamp of knowledge and acceptance.

Prototype religious symbol for Hindu Temple Society, around 1970

Gift of Hindu Temple Society of North America

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Hindu Temple Society of North America 

Hindu Temple Society of North America
 

Courtesy of Hindu Temple Society of North America

Muslim Community Center

A diverse group of practicing Muslims from around the world created the Muslim Community Center in Maryland in 1976. They came together to practice their religion, and to help each other with child care, medical services, and language education. By 2015 they started a school and a free health clinic that serves not just Muslims, but the entire community.

Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring, Maryland

Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring, Maryland

Courtesy of Muslim Community Center

Washington National Cathedral

Built over many years, Washington National Cathedral is a place where all religious groups can unite in faith and community. While it is an Episcopalian house of worship, an ecumenical spirit prevails as evidenced in their service to the wider community.

Interfaith service booklet to celebrate 25th anniversary of Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, 2012

Interfaith service booklet to celebrate 25th anniversary of Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, 2012

Gift of Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., completed and consecrated in 1990

Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., completed and consecrated in 1990

Courtesy of Library of Congress