Religious Freedom Day celebrates the commitment of the United States government to grant every citizen freedom of religion. It is celebrated on the day the Virginia General Assembly adopted Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. This statute eventually inspired the first amendment, which would grant religious freedom to every American since the start of the nation.
The First Amendment in what is now the Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment concerns having freedoms of religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. Meaning congress is forbidden from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees the freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peacefully and to petition their government.
Awareness and Celebration of Religious Freedom Day
There are a few essential things we must do to participate in this holiday and celebrate appropriately:
Fully understand what religious freedom means
Reacquaint ourselves with this fundamental freedom
Acknowledge our government can never reach its full potential if individuals within its borders are marginalized or oppressed. Only by fully embracing and protecting religious freedom can countries achieve their economic aspirations, ensure security, and eradicate terrorism (Michael Pompeo, Secretary of State, 2019).
Watch First Freedom on PBS
Learn about other religions
Practice your own faith
Participate in events
Read about other religions and their experiences in the United States
Presently in 2020 and in 2016, our presidents at the time have made proclamations about Religious Freedom Day: their (re)commitment to protecting religious freedom, providing and discussing events or community based things around this framework and what future goals and commitments they have toward religious freedom.
This day is about expressing who you are, whatever that looks like, and having the opportunity and freedom to do so. So go out and do exactly that, be whoever you are in this world.