“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed . . .” — James Madison’s speech to Congress when introducing the Bill of Rights
Today is Religious Freedom Day – a proclamation issued by each President since 1993.
When Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States, left his directives for the design of his tombstone, he ordered that his legacy be listed. The epitaph was to say specifically, “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, And Father of the University of Virginia.”
These three accomplishments were what Jefferson valued the most. His Statute for Religious Freedom was passed (with only slight modifications) on January 16, 1786. It was a historic break with what had been the virtually universal practice of state-established religions. Jefferson’s legislation would serve as a model for eventual disestablishment in every state, and also as the basis for the establishment clause to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
At the time, the Commonwealth of Virginia had one “official,” state-recognized and subsidized church, the Church of Virginia, patterned after the Church of England. All other churches, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Quaker, Mennonite, and so forth, were either severely marginalized or even suppressed. Jefferson and those that sympathized with him wanted a robust and varied religious landscape. He had worshiped at a number of different denominational churches and appreciated them all. While he was at first unsuccessful in getting his bill passed, he never gave up the pursuit of religious liberty. It would eventually fall to James Madison to get the measure through the Virginia legislature, but Jefferson considered it one of his greatest lifetime achievements.
Faith & Action celebrates this day, understanding that it is the blessing of religious freedom that enables us to minister on Capitol Hill. And, as we always have, we continue to monitor religious freedom cases that come before the Supreme Court – committing them to prayer each step of the way.
To find out more about Religious Freedom Day, visit HERE!
Thank you for your continued faithful support and prayers. May the Lord do a tremendous work in and through us as we enjoy the freedom to share the Gospel in our nation’s capital!
On Behalf of the Faith & Action Ministry Team,
Mrs. Peggy Nienaber
Vice President of Operations
Faith & Action in the Nation’s Capital
P.S. You may give to Faith & Action online HERE, or, call in your gift to 202-734-8732. You may also mail it to Faith & Action, 109 2nd St NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.