WASHINGTON – Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, President Donald Trump is proclaiming today, January 16, Religious Freedom Day.
"Faith is embedded in the history, spirit and soul of our Nation," the president began his proclamation.
Today marks 232 years since the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute was written by then Delegate Thomas Jefferson, which became the basis for the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The statute states 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."
Five years later, America's founders affirmed the right of all Americans to choose and exercise their faith without government coercion or reprisal.
"Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion," President Trump proclaimed.
He went on to recognize the dangers of chipping away at religious freedom, specifically calling out those who ignore religious liberty by threatening tax consequences for certain forms of religious speech or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their conscience.
"These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy," his proclamation reads.
Soon after taking office the president worked to strengthen religious liberty with an executive order directing federal agencies to comply with laws that protect religious freedom.
"No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenants of faith or adherence to the law," the proclamation continues.
The president says the U.S. will continue to fight for religious liberty abroad as well and "strive for the day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences."
He encourages Americans to commemorate the day with activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty.