RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY 1/16/24: Our National Observance Celebrating America’s Historic Religious Freedom (i.e. freedom of belief) – An Op-Ed by MRFF Board Member John Compere

Published On: January 15, 2024|Categories: Top News|2 Comments|
Headshot of John Compere on American Flag background


“RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY” is our national observance on January 16th celebrating America’s historic religious freedom (i.e. freedom of belief) and commemorating the day in 1786 when the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson and advocated by James Madison was enacted.

Virginia’s landmark law separated religion from government and mandated no person “…shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever”. It was the genesis for United States Constitution (Article VI [3] and 1st Amendment) separation of religion and government (aka: church and state separation)) established by the Founders and overwhelmingly supported by Americans today (Pew Research). Even Jesus separated government and religion (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17).

American Founder and President Thomas Jefferson had only three accomplishments placed on his gravestone – author of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and father of the University of Virginia.

Freedom of belief (religious or non-religious) is America’s original individual liberty. It was also a basis for Article 18 of the historic United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 and proclaiming “…everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…” .

Beliefs are predominately determined by the family, culture and geography in which one happens to be born and raised. American children believe in Santa Claus, flying reindeer, elves, Easter bunnies, Halloween witches, tooth fairies, ghosts, angels, devils, gods, etc although they are not evidence based. These beliefs are by-products of childhood gullibility, imitation and obedience.

American adults cease believing in most childhood myths but many continue to believe in gods, angels and devils because they want to believe and some need to believe. Comfort in belief is often preferred to validity. Religion prospers and profits by perpetuating these propensities. Other adults evolve to evidence based beliefs in science, nature, humanity, morality, etc.       

World history confirms early civilizations created their own deities. Naturalist religions deified animals, elements and geographic features. Egalitarian religions deified children, women and men. Matriarchal religions deified women and motherhood. Patriarchal religions deified only males. Humans created most gods in their own image. Biblical scripture even recognizes “…each national group made its own gods…” (2 Kings 17:29). Renaissance Philosopher Montaigne observed “Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozens” (“Essays”, 1580).

The religious beliefs of America’s original discoverers and inhabitants, our indigenous people, consisted of animistic nature worship with animals, elements and geographic features revered as spiritual essences. The next discoverers of America, Vikings or Norsemen, practiced polytheistic paganism with numerous deities.

The religion of later European immigrants to America included varieties of Christianity, a foreign import from Semitic antiquity by way of Rome. Most early American colonists left Europe for religious freedom. When independence was declared in 1776 less than 20% of colonists belonged to religion establishments. Today, less than 50% of Americans are members of churches, synagogues or mosques (Gallup) and 1/3 of Americans are non-religious “Nones” (Pew Research). America is a nation of belief independence, freedom and diversity.

The majority of America’s principal founders were not orthodox Christians. Many were Deists (e.g. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen and Joel Barlow). Some were Unitarians (e.g. John Adams and John Quincy Adams). Only a few were orthodox Christians (e.g. Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry).

There is no religious belief uniformity. World Christian Encyclopedia records at least 10,000 distinct world religions with over 2,000 different American Christianities. “Religion” is derived from the Latin “religare” meaning “to bind (with rules)”. Most religions claim exclusive truth rejecting others. Murderous rejection is even mandated in religious scripture (e.g. Deuteronomy 13:6-10). American philosopher Mark Twain observed “Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them.”

Every member of the American military takes the sworn oath to support, defend and bear true faith and allegiance to the United States Constitution. Fidelity to the secular Constitution is the foundation of American military service. We are one nation under the Constitution and it is the Constitution in which we trust. The Constitution, Department of Defense directives and Armed Forces regulations prohibit the military from establishing, enforcing or endorsing a religion and require neutrality regarding religion.

Our American military is composed of men and women of different faiths, beliefs, cultures, traditions and ethnic origins. It is incumbent on all military superiors to respect the religious freedom of subordinates which enhances morale and refrain from imposing religious beliefs upon them which disrespects their religious freedom and diminishes morale.

American religious freedom is a shield of protection providing the inalienable right guaranteed by the Constitution to determine, enjoy and practice one’s own religious or non-religious beliefs free from government favor or disfavor. It is not a sword of privilege to harm, discriminate against or impose religion on fellow Americans.

America is the most belief diverse nation in the world. It is our proud American heritage of individual freedom and the cornerstone of American liberties we must protect and preserve.

“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others…we are bound…to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.” – 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…” – President James MADISON

“We establish no religion in this country, church and state are, and must remain, separate.” – President Ronald REAGAN

“We establish no religion in this country, church and state are, and must remain, separate.” – President Ronald REAGAN

“I fully understand it’s important to maintain the separation of church and state…It’s very important for people who are serving (in office) to make sure there’s a separation of church and state.” – President George W. BUSH

“This is a nation founded on the idea of the separation of church and state. After 200 years, why the hell would you want to go messing with that?” – President Joseph BIDEN

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

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  1. Goodjob February 23, 2024 at 2:16 pm

    MRFF cowboy spewing as many words as he can in a vain attempt to try and discredit religion. Deplorable.

  2. Grey One Talks Sass February 23, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    GoodJob, if you had a specific phrase or paragraph proving your comment you’d have used them. You didn’t, therefore your comment is crap and you know it’s crap.

    John Compere is one of the most accurate writers when it comes to the history of why we celebrate some of our Federal holidays.

    Religion needs no one to discredit it because its followers do an amazing job of it on their own.

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