Religious Minorities (Non-Christian) - Events By Date
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Mikveh Israel (1740)

Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia began as a Jewish cemetery (1740) but later became a synagogue (1782), one of the earliest existing Jewish synagogues in America.

Touro Synagogue (1763)

Touro Synagogue was dedicated in 1763 in Newport, R.I. It is the oldest dedicated synagogue in America.

George Washington's Letter to Touro Synagogue (8/18/1790)

President George Washington's 1790 letter to Jews in Rhode Island is widely regarded as his most emphatic endorsement of religious liberty and acceptance.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom (1795)

The first Ashkenazic congregation in the Western Hemisphere, Rodeph Shalom, was founded in Philadelphia in 1795.

Ququnok Patke Prophesies (1809)

Ququnok Patke (c.1790s-1837) was a Kootenai Indian whose prophecies in the early 1800s made her legendary throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Rebecca Gratz Founds First Hebrew Sunday School (1838)

Under Rebecca Gratz's oversight, the first free Hebrew Sunday school opened in Philadelphia in 1838.

First Daoist/Traditional Chinese Temples in the U.S. (1849)

Daoism (i.e., Taoism), one of China’s recognized religions, arrived in San Francisco in the 19th century as Chinese immigrants sought work in California’s gold rush.

First Buddhist Temples Built (1853-1889)

In the 1850s-1880s, Chinese and Japanese immigrants brought Buddhism to America as they searched for work in Hawaii's plantations and California's gold rush.

Chief Seattle's Speech (1854)

An 1854 speech by Native American Chief Seattle (1780-1866) inspired the 20th century environmental movement, despite being heavily rewritten.

Hebrew Union College (1875)

Hebrew Union College, the oldest center of Jewish higher education in America, was founded in 1875 with its first campus in Cincinnati.

Theosophical Society Founded (11/17/1875)

Founded in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society popularized such Eastern tenets as karma and reincarnation in a new religious movement emphasizing spiritual evolution.

Peyote Religion and the Native American Church (1885-1918)

Use of peyote, a psychedelic source for Native American spirit ceremonies, became widespread in the mid-1880s. In 1906, peyote groups formed the Native American Church.

Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1886)

The Jewish Theological Seminary, founded in New York in 1886, is the educational center of Conservative Judaism.

World Parliament of Religions (8/1/1893-10/1/1893)

In 1893, the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago introduced many non-Christian faiths to America -- including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Jainism, Shinto and Taoism.

First Shinto Shrine in the U.S. (11/3/1898)

On November 3, 1898, Japanese immigrants built the first Shinto shrine in the United States in Hilo, Hawaii.

Dzemijetul Hajrije (1906)

Dzemijetal Hajrije, America's oldest existing Muslim organization, was formed in 1906 by Bosnian immigrants who came to Chicago to help dig subway tunnels.

Hindu Temple Established in San Francisco (1/7/1906)

On Jan. 7, 1906, Indian-born Swami Trigunatita helped build one of the first Hindu temples of the western world in San Francisco.

Sufism Comes to United States (1910)

Fulfilling the wishes of his Sufi teacher, Hazrat Inayat Khan sailed to America in 1910 to spread the message of this mystical arm of Islam.

First Sikh Gurdwara (1912)

The first gurdwara, a Sikh gathering place, was built in 1912 in Stockton, C.A., by settlers attracted to the fertile farmland similar to their native Punjab.

First Purpose-Built Mosque (1929)

In 1929, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants constructed the first purpose-built mosque in America in Ross, N.D., to serve their small community of Muslims.

Nation of Islam Founded (7/4/1930)

On July 4, 1930, W.D. Fard founded the Nation of Islam, one of the most radical and militant religious movements of the 20th century.

Mother Mosque of America (1934)

The "Mother Mosque of America," established by immigrants in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the oldest purpose-built mosque still in use.

Buddhist Churches of America (1944)

The Buddhist Churches of America, formed in 1944 and headquartered in San Francisco, represents mainstream Japanese American Buddhism.

Autobiography of a Yogi Published (1946)

Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, published in 1946, continues to be used by followers of his Self-Realization Fellowship and as college textbooks.

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois (1953)

The Baha'i House of Worship, located near Chicago in Wilmette, Ill., was opened in 1953 and is the only Baha'i temple in North America.

Church of Scientology (1954)

In 1954, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) began the Church of Scientology with teachings on how to reach a blissful "state of clear."

Huston Smith Publishes The Religions of Man (1958)

In 1958, Huston Smith published his landmark textbook on comparative religion, The Religions of Man in 1958, later renamed The World's Religions.

American Chapter of Soka Gakkai Formed (1960)

The Japanese-based Soka Gakkai Buddhist society commissioned its U.S. chapter in 1960. In 1991, the chapter reorganized as Soka Gakkai International-USA.

Islamic Center of America (9/20/1963)

In 1963, after years of fundraising, Lebanese Muslims in the Detroit area opened the Islamic Center of America, one of the oldest Shi'a mosques in America.

Muhammad Ali Converts to Islam (1964)

After winning his first heavyweight championship in 1964, boxer Cassius Clay (1942-2016) announced he had converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (1965)

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (i.e., Hart-Celler Act) permitted more Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu immigrants into the United States, changing the U.S. religious landscape.

Church of Satan (1966)

Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-97) started the Church of Satan in 1966, offering a new Golden Rule: "Do unto others as they do unto you."

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (1966)

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Parbhupada (1896-1977) founded the International Society of Krishna Consciousness in 1966 in New York to bring Krishna worship to the West.

Sally Priesand Becomes First Female Rabbi (6/3/1972)

On June 3, 1972, Sally Priesand became the first female rabbi ordained in America -- and the first woman in Judaism to earn seminary ordination.

Vietnamese Buddhists Come to United States (1975)

Vietnamese Buddhism spread across America as thousands of refugees arrived after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

Major Upsurge in Hindu Temples (6/8/1977)

The 1970s, and early 1980s, saw an explosion of Hindu temples in America, courtesy of a new law allowing for more immigrants from India.

American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978)

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act, passed in 1978, acknowledged the importance of Native American religious traditions and pledged to protect their rights.

Islamic Society of North America (1982)

The Islamic Society of North America was created in 1982 as an umbrella group to support and unite the burgeoning Muslim population in America.

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple (1988)

Built in 1988, Hsi Lai Temple near Los Angeles is the largest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere.

Native American Peyote Controversy (1994)

Despite passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978, legal judgments continued to challenge the use of peyote in religious services until 1994.

First Buddhists Elected to U.S. Congress (11/7/2006)

In November 2006, voters in Georgia and Hawaii elected the first two Buddhists --Democrats Hank Johnson and Mazie Hirono -- to the U.S. Congress.

Keith Ellison Elected to U.S. Congress (11/7/2006)

On Nov. 7, 2006, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to national office, joining the U.S. House of Representatives for Minnesota's fifth district.

Swaminarayan Akshardham (2014)

The world's largest Hindu temple, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, opened in 2014 in Robbinsville, N.J.


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