THE COURIER/File Photo
The historic John Bowne House in Flushing, where the Quakers held meetings.

The right to religious freedom in America has its roots in Flushing, and now federal lawmakers want to preserve local buildings, including the John Bowne House, where that freedom was first established.

Congress passed a bill that would require the federal government to maintain sites like the John Bowne House in Flushing that are associated with the 1657 signing of the Flushing Remonstrance, the document recognized as the forerunner of religious freedom in America. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, of Queens, in the House, where it passed in September.

“The 1657 Remonstrance triggered events which established the principle of religious freedom in the colony of New Amsterdam,” said Rosemary Vietor, vice president of the Bowne House Historical Society, “which led to the guarantee of religious freedom in the First Amendment more than 100 years later.”

The bill passed the Senate on Saturday and has been sent to President Obama for his  signature. If the bill is enacted, the National Park Services would examine whether the properties — John Bowne House and the Quaker Meeting House — meet the agency’s standards of being included in the national park system. The study could lead to the locations either becoming a National Historic Park or a National Historic Site or the creation of a partnership to support the facilities.

According to Meng’s office, the bill is likely to be signed by the president soon, helping move a little-known piece of American history out of obscurity.

“Not only would the two facilities become more well-known, but the sites would stand to receive many more visitors each year, and more tourism translates into more dollars for the Queens economy,” Meng said. “It’s time for more people across the country to know about the Flushing Remonstrance, and putting these sites on a national stage is a sure way to accomplish that.”

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