President Donald Trump put out a proclamation Tuesday declaring Jan. 16, 2018, as “Religious Freedom Day” and emphasizing the important role religious liberty plays in the United States.
In the proclamation, Trump explained that “faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul” of the United States.
Then, he talked the founding of this country, summing up in one sentence where freedom originates from and why it is a value that Americans hold so dear.
“Our forefathers, seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God,” Trump said.
Trump referenced a Thomas Jefferson-authored bill passed in the Virginia state legislature exactly 232 years ago on Tuesday, which stated that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
It is this bill, according to Trump, which inspired the First Amendment to the Constitution’s guarantee regarding freedom of religion.
But despite the guarantee, the president pointed out that not everyone realizes how vital this freedom is to the American way of life.
“Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification,” Trump said.
“These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.”
The proclamation comes in the midst of controversy over whether business owners should be forced to serve customers in ways that go against their deeply held religious beliefs.
In December, a case involving a Colorado baker who declined to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding was heard before the Supreme Court, though a final ruling has yet to come down, according to The Washington Times.
Trump said that as president, he has fought to protect religious liberty.
“Soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom,” he said.
“No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”
Trump also touted America’s role in being the “paramount champion for religious freedom around the world,” as religious liberty is not just reserved for American citizens.
“We will continue to condemn and combat extremism, terrorism, and violence against people of faith, including genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims,” the president said.
“We will be undeterred in our commitment to monitor religious persecution and implement policies that promote religious freedom,” he added, with the stated goal being the “day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences.”
Trump concluded by highlighting the “free exercise of religion” as a “source of personal and national stability.”
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world,” he said. “We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.”
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