by John Rivera, Communications and Marketing Director

BALTIMORE—The Maryland Center for History and Culture (MCHC), with partner and advisor the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS), has been awarded a $100,000 planning grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to launch a multidisciplinary initiative exploring the legacy of religious tolerance in Maryland.

The grant will fund the work of a researcher who will collaborate with MCHC and ICJS to lay the foundation for a public initiative at the museum exploring Maryland’s often fraught history of religious toleration in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in 2026.

The proposed initiative and related programming will squarely take on the tension between Maryland’s founding as a bastion of religious toleration—beginning with the Toleration Act of 1649 that ensured religious freedoms to Christian colonists—with the reality of its history of exclusion of minority faith groups. In fact, the Toleration Act was rescinded twice in succeeding years in an effort to exclude Catholics. And minority religious groups, including indigenous communities, Unitarians, Jews, and others were routinely marginalized throughout Maryland history, as they were across the country.

The MCHC, as the oldest continuously operating cultural institution in Maryland, with the largest collection of the state’s history and culture, is uniquely positioned to take on this initiative. 

“MCHC is more than a museum. Supported by our collections, our research library, press, and educational programs weave together to engage Marylanders in all aspects of our shared history”, said Katie Caljean, MCHC president and CEO. “Our state’s nationally important religious history is a powerful lens to look forward and back as we approach the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in 2026. We are so excited to see the results of this project and its potential to advance inclusive Maryland stories.” 

MCHC has engaged ICJS, a Baltimore-based educational nonprofit, as its partner and advisor in the project for assistance in assessing and interpreting religious cultural material as well as with engagement and outreach to religious communities.

“This dynamic partnership between MCHC and ICJS will strengthen both organizations and allow us to better tell the story of religious diversity in Maryland,” said Heather Miller Rubens, ICJS executive director and Roman Catholic scholar. “As Christian nationalism—as well as the religious bigotry of antisemitism and Islamophobia—continue to grow, exploring the histories of religious toleration and religious difference is relevant and essential work.”

The planning grant qualifies MCHC and ICJS to apply for a $2.5M implementation grant from the Lilly Endowment later this year. The multi-year grant will support a research fellowship for religious studies at MCHC. The fellow will work collaboratively with MCHC and ICJS to advance new research on Maryland’s religious history that will result in new publications, exhibitions, and public programming. 

Media Contacts

David Belew
MCHC VP of External Affairs
(410) 685-3750 x344

John Rivera
ICJS Communications & Marketing Director
Cell: 443-604-2918

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About Maryland Center for History and Culture 

The Maryland Center for History and Culture (MCHC) collects, preserves, and interprets the history, art, and culture of Maryland. Originally founded as the Maryland Historical Society in 1844, MCHC inspires critical thinking, creativity, and community through its Museum, Library, and education programs. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm with extended hours on Thursdays until 8 pm. The H. Furlong Baldwin Library is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, and the second Saturday of the month. Learn more at, or find us on social @mdhistory. 

About the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies

To disarm religious bias and bigotry, the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) builds learning communities where religious difference becomes a powerful force for good. ICJS envisions an interreligious society in which dialogue replaces division, friendship overcomes fear, and education eradicates ignorance. Through educational programming, public-facing scholarship, and relationship-centered fellowships and workshops, ICJS models a new conversation in the public square that affirms religious diversity in the United States. ICJS is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. More information is at