With less than a week remaining in his presidential term, President Bush has proclaimed January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, a day to celebrate the United States’ “legacy of religious liberty.”
After noting that “religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society,” the President explained that on Religious Freedom Day, “we recognize the importance of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” and also the “first liberties enshrined in our Constitution's Bill of Rights, which guarantee the free exercise of religion for all Americans and prohibit an establishment of religion,” he said, according to a White House press release.
President Bush continued by recalling that the U.S. was founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution, “and the religious liberty they found here remains one of this land's greatest blessings.”
“The United States also stands with religious dissidents and believers from around the globe who practice their faith peacefully,” he added. “Freedom is not a grant of government or a right for Americans alone; it is the birthright of every man, woman, and child throughout the world. No human freedom is more fundamental than the right to worship in accordance with one's conscience.”
He concluded by defining Religious Freedom Day as not only an “opportunity to celebrate our legacy of religious liberty,” but also a time to “foster a culture of tolerance and peace, and to renew commitments to ensure that every person on Earth can enjoy these basic human rights.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for three and a half years, agreed about the importance of religious freedom. “The right to believe in God and to practice our religious faith without harassment is our most precious freedom as Americans. But this same freedom rightly belongs to all human beings, as sons and daughters of the same Father,” he told CNA.
“President Bush has done a great service to believers everywhere by naming January 16, 2009, as Religious Freedom Day. May all his successors in office provide religious liberty with the same esteem and protection."