Religious Freedom

Each year, since 1993, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and, as in 2005, calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.”

The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation and considered it one of his greatest achievements. It stopped the practice of taxing people to pay for the support of the local clergy, and it protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination.

The men who drafted the U.S. Constitution leaned heavily on Jefferson’s statute in establishing the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Today, that protection is as important as ever.

— Religious Freedom Day Guidebook