“Religious Freedom Day”  is our annual national observance on January 16th celebrating America’s historic religious liberties. It commemorates the day in 1786 when the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson and advocated by James Madison (Virginians, Founders and Presidents) was enacted. It mandated “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever”  (freedom from religion).

This landmark law separated religion and government in Virginia. It  provided the genesis for our US Constitution separation of church and state, authored by Madison and advocated by Founders Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Franklin, Hamilton, Paine, et al.

World history records centuries of human harm caused when governments and religion combined. Separation of religion from government is a fundamental liberty of free people keeping public government out of private religion and private religion out of public government. It was clearly our Founders’ intent as provided by their governing documents, indisputably documented by historic records, publicly acknowledged by every American President except the current one, and continuously confirmed by the Supreme Court as the law of our land. Jesus even separated religion and government (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17).

The Declaration of Independence (not law nor a governing document) uses universal terms and declares “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed” (not from a deity or religion).

Our lawful governing Constitution is strictly secular and contains no reference to a deity or a religion. Article VI mandates “no religious test” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office (protecting government from religion). The Preamble provides six secular reasons our nation was created for “We The People”. History records no public prayers were provided during the 116 day Constitutional Convention. James Madison reminded delegates of the Constitution’s secular purpose – “This is derived from the superior power of the people”.

The Constitution’s 1st Amendment provides our historic trinity of religious freedoms (protecting religion from government). It prevents the government from lawfully (1)“respecting” an establishment of religion, (2) “prohibiting” the free exercise of religion, or (3) “abridging” freedom of speech about religion. Our government is required to remain neutral regarding religion (neither pro-religion nor anti-religion, but religion-neutral). Most state constitutions provide similar religious liberties.

Historically, America’s original religion was Native American Animism followed by Viking Old Norse Polytheism. Christianity was a later foreign import from the ancient Middle East by way of Rome. Neither Middle Easterners nor Romans discovered America or founded the United States. World history confirms most colonists fled Europe to escape oppressive Christianity from the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, over 80% of colonists did not belong to Christian congregations in 1776.

We became the first nation in history to constitutionally provide freedom of belief (religious or non-religious) without acknowledging dependency on a higher authority (e.g. emperor, monarch, deity, religion, etc). We also provided a genesis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 proclaiming “…everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”.

American religious belief diversity is acknowledged in many ways. World Christian Encyclopedia records 10,000 distinct religions worldwide with 2,000 different Christianities in America alone.

US Armed Forces regulations recognize, respect and require religious belief freedom. The US Department of Defense official religion list recognizes 221 different belief groups. The US Department of Veteran Affairs official grave emblem list recognizes 70 different belief groups.

American freedom of belief is the egalitarian essence of our individual liberty. It is a shield to protect people and not a sword to harm others. Religious freedom is our proud American heritage.

Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship…” & “…the Government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction…”. – 1st President GEORGE WASHINGTON

We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions…shall enjoy equal liberty…we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” – 2nd President JOHN ADAMS

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others…we are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.”  – 3rd President THOMAS JEFFERSON

…religion & Govt. will exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” & “…a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Government…” – 4th President JAMES MADISON

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” – 35th President John F. Kennedy (Catholic)

“We establish no religion in this country, church and state are, and must remain separate.” – 40th President Ronald Reagan (Protestant)

John Compere
Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired)
Former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review & US Army Legal Services Agency
MRFF Board Member
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Texas rancher

Share this page:

Commenter Account Access

  • Register for a commenter account
    (Not required to post comments, but will save you time if you're a regular commenter)
  • Log in using your existing account
  • Click here to edit your profile and change your password
  • All comments are subject to our Terms of Use

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *