Barack Obama on Religious Freedom Day
It would be a wild exaggeration to call this a guest front page post from Barack Obama. But since his words are available in the form of a White House press release and in the public domain... let's go ahead and wildly exaggerate.
President Obama's post is remarkably on topic for us -- as a site dedicated to reporting and analysis about the Religious Right and what to do about it. Indeed, where many of us most fundamentally part company with the Religious Right is on the meaning of religious freedom. President Obama's statement on the occasion of Religious Freedom Day is an excellent expression of the broad, unambiguous intentions of the Framers of the Constitution, and the tradition and Constitutional heritage that has been handed down to us to carry on and to make ever more real in our lives and in the life of our nation.
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was written by Jefferson, but it took the better part of a decade to get it finally enacted in 1786, thanks to the efforts of Governor James Madison. The following year, Madison served the principle author of the Constitution, and so it is fair to say that the difficult experience of steering the Virginia Statute into law was a defining part of his political life; and the text itself prefigures his approach to the relationship between church and state he brought to the creation of the federal Constitution, and later to the drafting of the First Amendment. To celebrate and discuss all this is, I believe, is as worthwhile an activity as we can engage in, as we seek to capture the broad narrative of religious freedom and pluralism in the U.S. -- even as Christian Nationalists who seek to revise our history en route to justifying their vision of a contemporary Christian Nation, continue to gain strength. On that note, we are very pleased to welcome Barack Obama as a guest front pager at Talk to Action. -- FC
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 14, 2011
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2011
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
Our Nation was founded on a shared commitment to the values of justice, freedom, and equality. On Religious Freedom Day, we commemorate Virginia's 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom, in which Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion." The fundamental principle of religious freedom -- guarded by our Founders and enshrined in our Constitution's First Amendment -- continues to protect rich faiths flourishing within our borders.
The writ of the Founding Fathers has upheld the ability of Americans to worship and practice religion as they choose, including the right to believe in no religion at all. However, these liberties are not self-sustaining, and require a stalwart commitment by each generation to preserve and apply them.
Throughout our Nation's history, our founding ideal of religious freedom has served as an example to the world. Though our Nation has sometimes fallen short of the weighty task of ensuring freedom of religious expression and practice, we have remained a Nation in which people of different faiths coexist with mutual respect and equality under the law. America's unshakeable commitment to religious freedom binds us together as a people, and the strength of our values underpins a country that is tolerant, just, and strong.
My Administration continues to defend the cause of religious freedom in the United States and around the world. At home, we vigorously protect the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs. Across the globe, we also seek to uphold this human right and to foster tolerance and peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. We bear witness to those who are persecuted or attacked because of their faith. We condemn the attacks made in recent months against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, along with attacks against people of all backgrounds and beliefs. The United States stands with those who advocate for free religious expression and works to protect the rights of all people to follow their conscience, free from persecution and discrimination.
On Religious Freedom Day, let us reflect on the principle of religious freedom that has guided our Nation forward, and recommit to upholding this universal human right both at home and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2011, as Religious Freedom Day.
I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation's liberty, and to show us how we can protect it for future generations here and around the world.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.