by Mia Gradick • 5 min read
On Monday, January 16, we celebrate one of the most important days for religious liberty: National Religious Freedom Day!
Millions of Americans from coast to coast have an opportunity to reflect on our country’s cherished heritage of religious freedom. But keep in mind that National Religious Freedom Day isn’t just a historical commemoration. It’s a call to action.
This annual celebration reminds us of the importance of protecting the first and foundational liberty we have as Americans—the freedom to live out our faith.
Let’s take a brief look at the history of this day of observance for our nation.
30 Years of National Religious Freedom Day
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 an opportunity for Americans to go forth and exercise their religious liberty in their homes, schools, houses of worship and the public square.
It’s also a day when we look back on the historic passing of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1786, it states “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 statute was a foundational blueprint that inspired and led to the ratification of the First Amendment.
Additionally, this day marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Three decades later, RFRA is still one of the most important federal law protecting our right to live out our faith. And how appropriate that RFRA was signed in 1993, the same year that National Religious Freedom Day was first observed.
Restoring Faith in America
This is truly a National Religious Freedom Day unlike any other. Why?
Many Americans don’t realize it, but there’s an incredible revival breaking out all across our country right now. Thanks to several landmark victories at the U.S. Supreme Court, we’re witnessing the biggest positive change for religious freedom in our generation. Every American is experiencing more religious freedom today than at any point in the last 50 years.
For nearly half a century, public religious expression was silenced, censored and people of faith were far too often stripped of their constitutional rights. A slew of harmful Supreme Court decisions from the 1940s to the 1990s changed the law regarding public religious expression and distorted the original intent of the Constitution.
But the tide is turning. Thanks to recent Supreme Court victories by First Liberty, prayer can return to public places. Religious monuments that were taken down can go back up. Wherever your faith has been muzzled, religious freedom can confidently be put back where it rightfully and legally belongs.
Faith is—and has always been—at the center of our country. The right to openly live out our faith is a defining part of America and why freedom has flourished for nearly 250 years. We see this in the first settlers who came to the New World seeking religious liberty. We see it in the Founders, who ensured that religious freedom was the very first right in the Bill of Rights. We see it on this National Religious Day, a special occasion created to remember our First Freedom and the fruits that flow from it.
As 2023 gets underway, one of the best resolutions for the New Year is to go forth and restore faith across America. Now we can boldly and fearlessly live out our faith in our communities.
How? Here are some examples:
This National Religious Freedom Day, we encourage every American to seize this tremendous opportunity. There’s renewed hope that we can reclaim out nation’s heritage of religious expression, restore the freedoms that were stripped away and rebuild the foundation on which our Republic is built.
From all of us at First Liberty, happy National Religious Freedom Day!