It’s a call for all to celebrate Religious Freedom Day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 16 has been designated Religious Freedom Day in America. Churches are encouraged to mark the occasion by celebrating Religious Freedom on Sun., Jan. 15

Congress requested the first proclamation in 1993 asking the President to set aside Jan. 16 as Religious Freedom Day, “calling on the people of the United States to join together to celebrate their religious freedom and to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Organizers explain, “The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom….The goal of is to promote and protect students’ religious expression rights by informing educators, parents, and students about these liberties.”

Every President since 1993 has issued such a proclamation annually on that date. In 1999, President Bill Clinton wrote, “Americans are a deeply religious people, and our right to worship as we choose, to follow our own personal beliefs, is the source of much of our Nation’s strength.” In 2002, President George W. Bush stated, “Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our Republic, a core principle of our Constitution, and a fundamental human right.”

Last year, President Obama’s proclamation included this statement, “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 Nov. 2009, a document called the Manhattan Declaration was published and signed by hundreds of religious leaders (Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians) and now almost a half million people have signed it online.

It reads, “Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”

Regarding Religious Liberty, the Manhattan Declaration states, “In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded.”

Chuck Colson, one of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration, has written, “The Declaration specifically cites Dr. King’s magnificent ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ in which he taught that ‘A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.’ An unjust law, however, ‘is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law,’ and therefore has no binding power over human conscience. It’s vital that every church defend freedom of religion, the bulwark of all of our freedoms.”