President Obama proclaimed Jan. 16 as Religious Freedom Day in the United States in commemoration of a statute passed by America’s forefathers that declared freedom of religion as a natural right of all humanity.
“Long before our Nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents,” Obama said on Friday in a statement. “Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all.”
In honor of Virginia’s 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom, the precursor to the First Amendment, the United States each year recognizes Jan. 16 as Religious Freedom Day. The statute, penned by Thomas Jefferson and supported in the Virginia legislature by James Madison, declared that freedom of religion is a right and not a privilege that any government can give or take away. The Virginia Statute also banned the government from supporting any particular church and ensured Americans the freedom to profess their faith openly, without persecution.