by Lauren Moses • 5 min read
Sunday, January 16th is one of the most important days for religious liberty, because it’s National Religious Freedom Day!
This annual celebration reminds us of the first and most foundational liberty we have as Americans—the freedom to live out our faith.
For people of faith in America, Sunday is especially significant, as millions will attend a service at their houses of worship. But even though we enjoy this freedom, millions around the world are persecuted and forced underground for their beliefs. They cannot live out their faith freely and peacefully.
That’s why we set aside this day to reflect on religious liberty and acknowledge that this is indeed a freedom worth fighting for.
We at First Liberty have been celebrating this day for years, but you may not be familiar with National Religious Freedom Day. Here’s a little bit of background as to why this day is so significant to America and its founding.
The Cornerstone of the American Founding
Each year, since 1993, the President issues a proclamation designating January 16th as Religious Freedom Day, in commemoration of the many faiths that make up our country. It’s a call for Americans to go forth to live out their faith and exercise their religious liberty in their homes, schools, houses of worship and the public square.
It’s also a day when our nation honors and reflects on the historic passing of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a bill authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1786 stating that “all men shall be free to profess, and…maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no way diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This state statute was a foundational blueprint that inspired and led to the ratification of the First Amendment.
Additionally, this day brings to the fore the landmark Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Nearly three decades later, RFRA is still one of the most important pieces of federal law that protects our right to live out our faith. And how appropriate that RFRA was signed the same year (1993) that National Religious Freedom Day was first observed.
Religious Freedom is Invaluable
Why is celebrating religious freedom so important for our society, today? Here are three key reasons:
First, religious liberty is the building block of a free society. America’s Founders listed it as the first freedom in the first clause of the First Amendment. Why? Because without the freedom to worship and live out our faith, all other liberties—civil, economic and social—come crumbling down.
Second, religious freedom helps drive forward progress and improvement. This is evident in religious individuals and institutions who are vital to supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. As USAID points out:
“Societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to foster inclusive economic development, which is why promoting this freedom in particular is so important to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Nations that do not respect this fundamental right cannot be inclusive, stable, or prosperous.”
Finally, religious liberty is a common denominator that brings all Americans together, especially in this polarizing time for our nation. Religious freedom reminds us of what we have in common, rather than what divides us. It puts in perspective how blessed we are to have the Constitution, a document that expressly protects our right to live in accordance with our beliefs and convictions.
National Religious Freedom Day is a call to action, when you and millions of other Americans can live out your faith knowing that you not only have the constitutional right to do so, but that you have First Liberty—the nation’s leading religious liberty law firm— in your corner.
From all of us at First Liberty, happy National Religious Freedom Day!