US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 16, 2018, as “religious freedom day.” This date was chosen as it is the 223rd anniversary of Virginia’s enactment of the Statute for Religious Freedom.
In his proclamation, Trump said that “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation,” and that the day was intended to celebrate the religious diversity in America. Trump spoke of how the nation's forefathers came to what is now the US “seeking refuge from religious persecution” and believing that “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”
He noted that in 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which said that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This bill would inspire the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Trump touched on his efforts to preserve religious freedom in the United States, and said that it was “unfortunate” that past policies had infringed on this right. The president said that he attempted to address this issue with an executive order early in his presidency, and that “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”
The president said that the United States is the “paramount champion” for religious freedom worldwide, and that the U.S. will keep fighting against extremism, acts of terror, and violence against people due to their religious beliefs.
He condemned the “genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” against religious minorities in the region, such as the Yazidi, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Additionally, Trump said that “we will be undeterred” in efforts to put into place policies that promote religious freedom worldwide and to ensure that people are not persecuted for their beliefs.
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right,” said Trump.
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