Presidential Proclamation — Religious Freedom Day

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2013

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

 


Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose. Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the Statute affirmed that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.

Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers. Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom.

Americans of every faith have molded the character of our Nation. They were pilgrims who sought refuge from persecution; pioneers who pursued brighter horizons; protesters who fought for abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. Each generation has seen people of different faiths join together to advance peace, justice, and dignity for all.

Today, we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace.

As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2013, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty, and show us how we can protect it for future generations at home and around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

Written By: Barack Obama
continue to source article at m.whitehouse.gov

28 COMMENTS

  1. In reply to #1 by HenMie:

    Could we maybe rename this to A Day Free from all Religion?
    Surely, that would be the right way to go, and not what he proposes!
    What are we supposed to make of this president??

    Can you think of any President before Obama, with the possible exception of the Catholic JFK, daring to proclaim that Atheists are as American as Theists?

  2. Yes, I see what you mean, he does mention the non-believers, but I still don’t see the need for this commemoration. He talks of ‘legacy of faith’, he calls for ‘events and activities’ – maybe more prayers or sermons? No, I just don’t like this kind of onus on religion at all.

    In reply to #2 by SomersetJohn:

    In reply to #1 by HenMie:

    Could we maybe rename this to A Day Free from all Religion?
    Surely, that would be the right way to go, and not what he proposes!
    What are we supposed to make of this president??

    Can you think of any President before Obama, with the possible exception of the Catholic JFK, daring to proclaim that Atheists are as American as Theists?

  3. “Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.”

    Fine

    “Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom”

    But religious freedom is not the same as freedom to worship as we choose, since religions do more than just worship (e.g. cutting off foreskins, banning condoms, rejecting gays), so he can’t use the first sentence to justify the second. Why not rename it-

    Freedom to worship as we choose day.

  4. His effort to be all inclusive ruined at the end with “in the year of our Lord”. Your lord not mine.

    There was no need for those words, he could have just said the year without adding some blatant promotion of one particular religion into message supposedly to be for everyone of any belief.

  5. I think it’s called English, apparently used in the US too.

    I like this proclamation though, religious freedom is only 1 step away from saying you don’t need to bother.

    In reply to #9 by peanutsplatters:

    “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers.”

    Why are we the only ones who don’t get to be capitalized?

  6. What’s this? I’m about to debunk President Barack Obama.

    Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.

    Firstly, such a freedom is only enshrined in an amendment which not only guarantees freedom from all that stuff too, but actually opens with that emphasis: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Yet that first part is almost never respected, despite that being illegal. Some Republican summed up perfectly the illogic responsible for this when he claimed to thunderous but idiotic applause that freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. If you think a freedom of doesn’t mean a freedom from, you don’t know what a “freedom” is; it’s not an obligation. Americans don’t seem to hold the package deal highly at all.

    Secondly, how do we know how Americans rank their freedoms? It may be the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, but what about the 7 main articles of the Constitution? What about the other, perhaps more frequently mentioned parts of that amendment, such as the right to free speech and a free press? And, judging from the inefficacy of all responses to national tragedies that involve firearms, a right to guns seems more fiercely defended.

    Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.

    Why then the constitution eschewed all reference to gods and emphasised not giving religion a leg-up first is a mystery.

    We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers.

    Let’s say that again, in descending order of size: the US is a nation of Christians and non-believers, Jews and Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and other religions. (See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Religions_of_the_United_States.png)

    Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom.

    A lack of religious freedom only covers over such heritage; it doesn’t prevent it. Just look at Egypt. In any case, how can a nation be made stronger by its people disagreeing with each other on a topic that so animates them it causes intense hatred, prejudice and discrimination? And I read recently anti-Muslim attitudes may be so economically damaging when it comes to employment it could harm America’s position relative to China. Whether or not that specific claim is true, Americans regularly pay scientific, economic and social heavy prices for taking religious claims, and especially anti-scientific and illiberal ones, seriously.

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2013, as Religious Freedom Day.

    But the Constitution asks you not to respect an establishment of religion.

    The irony of programs like these is that they either praise religion – in which case they illegally treat theists better than atheists – or they don’t, in which case they struggle to find a rationale for the program in the first place. I tire of theists uniting only for their unity to include a disapprobation toward non-theists.

  7. I don’t know why religion has to be given special emphasis here. I don’t have a problem with freedom of religion, but the isue is wider than that: it’s about freedom of thought and belief and speech.

  8. Yes, I was annoyed at it too. Having won the election, with only one more term to run, with the republicans running scared for their religion, I really hoped that he would do something memorable for atheism, but with this proclamation I am sorely disappointed. A great opportunity missed.

    In reply to #5 by mcstu:

    His effort to be all inclusive ruined at the end with “in the year of our Lord”. Your lord not mine.

    There was no need for those words, he could have just said the year without adding some blatant promotion of one particular religion into message supposedly to be for everyone of any belief.

  9. In reply to #5 by mcstu:

    “His effort to be all inclusive ruined at the end with “in the year of our Lord”. Your lord not mine.
    There was no need for those words, he could have just said the year without adding some blatant promotion of one particular religion into message supposedly to be for everyone of any belief.”

    He should have used the CE/BCE notation which is adopted worldwide because of its neutrality. BCE: Before Common Era (Before Christ) and CE: Common Era (Anno Domini). Today we are in CE 2013.

  10. If the crux of it is a day for people to “think and worship as they like”, he ought to have stopped at that. Why on earth induce “Almighty God” and “Our Lord”. I’ve pretty much resigned to Obama’s status-quo bore by now. This isn’t the middle ages where he might be persecuted for speaking his mind. It looks like he always wants to be liked by everyone.

  11. In reply to #12 by Jos Gibbons:

    [...]

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2013, as Religious Freedom Day.

    But the Constitution asks you not to respect an establishment of religion.

    I think you’ve misunderstood the Establishment clause. The meaning of the word “respecting” has shifted a bit over the years. In this usage, it means “regarding”, not “showing deference or respect toward”. And, the “establishment of religion” does not refer to a particular organized religion, but rather to an official religion of the government, such as the C of E in the UK. In a nutshell, the Establishment clause specifies that religion shall have no recognized or protected standing in the government, and the Freedom of Religion clause prohibits the government from meddling in the religious beliefs and practices of citizens. (Obviously, this prohibition does not extend to people claiming that “rape (e.g.) is part of my religion.”)

    The irony of programs like these is that they either praise religion – in which case they illegally treat theists better than atheists – or they don’t, in which case they struggle to find a rationale for the program in the first place. I tire of theists uniting only for their unity to include a disapprobation toward non-theists.

    You’re onto something there. Both clauses inherently require Congress to determine what constitutes a religion, thereby violating both clauses! Still, the spirit of the law (sorry!) is what counts, and it’s why we have a judiciary to interpret where the boundaries lie.

  12. Ever notice how people always mention the pilgrims when talking about America’s origins, but never the Jamestown colonists? They were there 13 years before the Plymouth Colony. Could it be that the we really don’t want to think too deeply about the Jamestown colonists because they are so at odds with our Founding Myths? They are a very difficult lot to love — what with their brutal ethnic cleansing, the tobacco drug trade, the introduction of the slave based economy. They never talked about religion. They were only interested in money. To my way of thinking they are a much better example of what America was and continues to be.

  13. In reply to #25 by Scrivener:

    Ever notice how people always mention the pilgrims when talking about America’s origins, but never the Jamestown colonists? They were there 13 years before the Plymouth Colony. Could it be that the we really don’t want to think too deeply about the Jamestown colonists because they are so at odds with our Founding Myths? They are a very difficult lot to love — what with their brutal ethnic cleansing, the tobacco drug trade, the introduction of the slave based economy. They never talked about religion. They were only interested in money. To my way of thinking they are a much better example of what America was and continues to be.

    Thank you, I must admit I do forget that. Interesting.

    The Pilgrims are at odds with their own myths as well. They were not fleeing persecution, they were the persecuters, the Xian equivalent of the Taliban. Their agenda was at odds with civilization. They wanted to destroy all beauty and deny women what little freedom they had.

  14. David Remnick called his book about Obama, “The Bridge”. He didn’t mean it this way but Obama may be a bridge to a rational, even atheistic, society in the U.S.. He still has to pander to the theists like this but that’s what a bridge has to do. He has to gently prod the fearful across the void, one little phrase at a time, like “non-believers”, (uncapitalized) and then reassure them at the end.
    Could the NEXT president be an atheist?
    Wishful thinking?

  15. Quarecuss – who told you that he isn’t an atheist? From what I read about the Land of the Free, there would be no chance of an unbeliever getting elected. A man brought up without religion, so intelligent and superbly educated, would hardly fall easily into faith. I have his book, and I can find no evidence of religious conviction there, only a guarded ambiguity, and perhaps mild, tolerant amusement.

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