January 16

Freedom of Religion Day

 “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

First Amendment of the US Constitution

 On January 16, 1786 the Virginia State Assembly adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777. As a result, the Church of England in Virginia was disestablished and people of different faiths were granted freedom of religion. Catholics, Protestants and Jews were all given equal rights to express their religious beliefs. Religious Freedom Day was first proclaimed in 1996 and has been proclaimed every year since then by a statement by the President of the United States.

It is a contradiction of whatever religion we may follow to do violence in the name of being the only possessors of the true way to worship God. Yet, if we reflect on human history, how much hatred, prejudice and war do we see in the name of the God of love and peace whom every religion seeks? We distort the message of our religions and forget that religion is not God but a way to worship God.  We often despise one another and condemn one another in the name of the God who is merciful and loving. Sadly it is happening right now in our country where we profess to support freedom of religion.


Help us, O God, to live in humility compassion, and truth.


Meditate on the words: ”Love one another as I have loved you” and “ The one who says he loves God and hates his neighbor is a liar.” Take the time to read some of the sacred writings of a religion you may not understand.

Suggested Reading

God is spirit, and God’s worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.
John 4:24

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Matthew 7:15

Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. … They remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to absolute power.
Pope Francis

I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact.
Millard Fillmore

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
John F. Kennedy

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.
Thomas Jefferson

We have convinced over one billion members of the Islamic faith that we are prejudiced against their religion, that we would deny them freedom of religion, that we want suppress their culture and invade their governments.
Theodore C. Sorensen

The United States should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.
George Washington

When Christian Right leaders talk about religious liberty, they often really mean theocratic supremacism of their own religious beliefs inscribed in government.
Frederick Clarkson

I think it’s about time we gave up religion and got back to God.
Lenny Bruce

All of us think that our religion is ‘good’ and that those in apparent (and often politically motivated) opposition to it are ‘bad.’ But the real truth is that all of our religions are equally guilty of being used to promote violence, and — thanks to centuries of political manipulation that have distorted the way we read our holy books — all of us are equally guilty of not following what our religions really say.
David Liepert 

Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.
Billy Graham

We must confront persecution faced by many Christian communities and the intolerance that plagues us. We must overcome anti-Semitism and the prejudice that divides us. We must defeat Islamophobia and the fears that weaken us.
Ban Ki-moon

Let me say this loud and clear. There is a world of difference between terrorist acts and the Islamic Shari’a. Islam is not only a religion, but a way of life. And at its heart lie the sacred principles of tolerance and dialogue.
King Hussein I

The real question of all religions in the 21st century is not doctrinal. The real question is can we bring healing to our world?  If religions fail to use their own peaceable traditions for others, respect for the stranger, if they cannot make a potent voice in the world, then they will have failed the test of the 21st century.
Karen Armstrong