Source: The Economist
THIS weekend, some Americans, at least, have been pondering the meaning of religious liberty. January 16th has been designated Religious Freedom Day because it is the anniversary of what Thomas Jefferson regarded as one of his greatest achievements, ranking with the Declaration of Independence: the approval of a statute in his native Virginia which overturned the entrenched status of the Anglican church and set all faiths on an equal footing before the law. Although he was an Anglican himself, of a very free-thinking sort, he admired the integrity of his non-conformist compatriots and came to the view that religious privilege damaged everybody, including the privileged. The statute’s opening lines reflect the American founder’s mastery of language and clarity of thought.
Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was his Almighty power to do.
The Muslim Times’ Editor’s comment:
National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly‘s adoption of Thomas Jefferson‘s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. That statute became the basis for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and led to freedom of religion for all Americans.
Religious Freedom Day is officially proclaimed on January 16 each year by an annual statement by the President of the United States.