Today we continue our series examining our Founding Fathers in their own words and considering their high esteem for religion, religious liberty, and virtue.

Below is an excerpt from a set of instructions issued by General George Washington to then-Colonel Benedict Arnold on September 14, 1775. They order him to ensure his soldiers do not ridicule religious ceremonies and beliefs of others, and that the free exercise of religion is enjoyed by all, to the fullest extent possible.

“As the contempt of the religion of a country by ridiculing any of its ceremonies, or affronting its ministers or votaries, has ever been deeply resented, you are to be particularly careful to restrain every officer and soldier from such imprudence and folly, and to punish every instance of it. On the other hand, as far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of the religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority.”