On January 16, 1786, the Statute on Religious Freedom was enacted by the Virginia legislature and it is the basis of Religious Freedom Day. Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation, which ended the statechurch in Virginia and its favored clergy and denomination. It also protected civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without encountering discrimination.
The Bill of Rights, drafted in 1789, included religious practices for all citizens, was ratified by all of the states and was added to our U.S. Constitution in 1791.
Today, our first freedom – freedom to believe and live in accordance to those beliefs – is under attack today. More Americans are awakening to the fact that if we do not use our freedom to defend this freedom, this freedom may be lost. Thankfully, every U.S. president since 1993 has declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day in recognition on this inalienable right granted by God.
What can we do to preserve this right? Answer: pray for religious freedom to be valued in public life – in places of business (bakeries, florists, farmers’ market sales and photographers who supporting traditional marriage services, promote faith-based adoptions and foster- care agencies, and support pro-life legislation, etc.). This right should be included in sermons. We should engage in public discussions about this right and its applications. We should seek elected office; teach about this right in school settings (visit GTBE.org).
Ask God to soften hearts of judges, elected officials and public servants to the plight of those being harassed because of their deeply held beliefs. Also promote a Religious Freedom Day in schools: educators and administrators need assurance, without fear, that this is a necessary action. And prompt Congress and the president to protect religious freedom in policies and laws.
Sen. James Lankford introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act to amend the Johnson Amendment so nonprofits, clergy and churches can engage in political speech and activities without punitive action. Contact our elected representatives (Senators, House members) in order to urge them to support religious freedom legislation. Call 202-224-3121. Many of our legislators need and actually receive pertinent information to make wise decisions.