An important, yet little-known day in history, Religious Freedom Day, January 16th

Opinion Piece

by Guest Contributor,

James A. Kulacz

Religious Freedom Day in the USA was first declared in 1996, in honour of Virginia’s landmark Statute for Religious Freedom. That statute was written in 1777, and enacted by the Virginia Assembly on January 16, 1786. The statute was written by Thomas Jefferson, and was the precursor to the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the I Amendment of the US Constitution.

The statute was a landmark of disestablishmentarianism, severing the Anglican Church from the Commonwealth of Virginia. No longer would the Commonwealth use taxation as a means to support the Anglican Church, and going forward all religious faiths and none were recognised under Virginian law as being equal.

Those who promote antidisestablishmentarianism (there is a word I have never used in a sentence before) today, the Religious Right who would tear down the Separation of Church and State, would prefer this particular day and proclamation go unnoticed.

One might argue that those who favour the Secular State, which permits religious belief but favours none, should shout this proclamation every year from the rooftops.

It was the Baptists who argued for the inclusion of those clauses into the Bill of Rights: in those days Baptists were a tiny minority, and were punished, exiled, jailed, or killed for their beliefs. Baptists today, now powerful in the USA, seek to impose a regime of antidisestablishmentarianism (gotta use that word twice) on all those who disagree with their particular colour of belief.

Every year the President issues a proclamation in honour of Religious Freedom Day, reminding all that this is a nation of all faiths and none. The Presidential Proclamation of the day for 2014 can be found here.

Make sure you celebrate the separation of Church and State on January 16, the Religious Freedom Day which allows both the flourishing of religious belief, and the right to have none, without the interference of the State, nor the interference with the State by churches.

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