Religious Freedom Day is something I never thought I’d be thinking about. Like many Americans, it is a freedom I’ve taken for granted most of my life, like freedom of speech. But not anymore.
With this Sunday, Jan. 16, as national Religious Freedom Day, I’m sad to report that we cannot assume our government will protect and defend our constitutional rights in this era. We have to protect them through our own actions. We have to fight for them, and oftentimes, we’ll have to defend our religious freedom in court, as we’ve seen recently with the government violating the religious rights of Covid vaccine refusers, and with Americans willing to take these violations to the highest court in the land.
There is nothing more sacred to mankind than each of our spiritual journeys. Freedom to worship and hold fast to a faith — whether we hold those beliefs privately or share them with the world — is one of the most fundamental human rights. Everyone deserves the freedom to seek out truth, to find connection with Creator and creation, to form core values and conscience that guide life decisions, and to gather with others and worship. That freedom leads all others as our First Amendment to the Constitution. Without it, the Colonies would never have ratified the Constitution, and we would not have a country.
With these words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” our nation became the first in the world to create a government without a state religion.
Through the efforts of our founders — James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason — the Virginia Assembly passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on Jan. 16, 1786. It was the forerunner for the First Amendment.
Since 1993, every president has issued a proclamation recognizing Jan. 16 as National Religious Freedom Day.
On Sunday, I invite you to pledge to protect and cherish this first freedom that birthed our nation and has been an example to the world of the beauty, prosperity, and peace that comes from a people free to live out their faith.
Faith inspires hope, the Trump Administration wrote last year it a presidential proclamation on Religious Freedom Day, which I recommend as good dinner-table reading.
“Deeply embedded in the heart and soul of our Nation, this transcendent truth has compelled men and women of uncompromising conscience to give glory to God by worshiping both openly and privately, lifting up themselves and others in prayer. On Religious Freedom Day, we pledge to always protect and cherish this fundamental human right,” the proclamation says.
Those words mean more to me than ever before.
Join me in honoring the vision of a nation made strong by righteous people, free to exercise their faith as they see fit. Let us commit to protecting that precious religious freedom — the bedrock of all liberty, which we hold so dear.
Jamie Allard is and Assemblywoman representing Chugiak-Eagle River, and a candidate for House District 22.