It’s Religious Freedom Day! Tell Congress to Honor Jefferson’s Principles

January 16, 2015

Today, January 16, 2015, marks the 229th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of the landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This Statute, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and pushed through by James Madison, provided the basis for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As the U.S. formally marks passage of this Statute with Religious Freedom Day 2015, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) urges the 114th Congress in its new session to support the core principles emphasized within the Statute:

  • Civil rights for all, regardless of religion: "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."
  • Freedom of religion, belief, and expression: "All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion."
  • The concept of secular government: "No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever. … To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."

America is a dynamic nation with citizens of various different religious and philosophical backgrounds. Our public policies must respect this fact. They must not allow individuals to face restrictions on their liberties or discrimination based on religion. They must not stifle individuals’ ability to believe and practice as they wish. They must not favor particular religious viewpoints over others, or religious viewpoints over non-religious viewpoints. And they must not force citizens to subsidize religious teachings in any way.

This means Congress should protect a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system, free of religious meddling. It means Congress should protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals from discrimination based on religion. And it means Congress should ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t misused to fund religious organizations or schools.

Unfortunately, many members of Congress reject these core American principles. They believe their religious beliefs trump protecting the rights of others, and the secular, pluralistic character of our government.

That's why we need you to speak out. CFI urges you to write or call your members of Congress today and urge them to reject this narrow, sectarian view, to support the necessarily secular foundation and spirit of the U.S. government, and to protect true religious freedom of all Americans. 

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