Eleven months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt became convinced that Europe would be overrun if we didn’t help Britain right away. Many Americans opposed getting involved in the European war, so to mobilize support for aiding Britain, Roosevelt explained that the efforts were needed to preserve four essential freedoms. Rather than reciting the Bill of Rights, Roosevelt came up with his own list: freedom of speech and expression; freedom from want; freedom from fear—and the “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.”
To help sell war bonds, the beloved illustrator Norman Rockwell created four posters about the freedoms for the Saturday Evening Post. The freedom of worship illustration that ran on February 27, 1943, was not a generic image of worshippers at church, George Washington in prayer at Valley Forge or Pilgrims settling a new land. Rather, it was a group of easily identifiable contemporary believers—a Catholic woman clutching a rosary, a white-haired woman with hands clasped in prayer and a man with a yarmulke clutching a Jewish prayer book.