[United States Statutes at Large, Volume 124, 111th Congress, 2nd Session]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

 
PROCLAMATION 8474--JAN. 15, 2010

Proclamation 8474 of January 15, 2010
Religious Freedom Day, 2010
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Long before our Nation's independence, weary settlers sought refuge on
our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents.
Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America's
forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to
practice none at all. Many faiths are now practiced in our Nation's
houses of worship, and that diversity is built upon a rich tradition of
religious tolerance. On this day, we commemorate an early realization of
our Nation's founding ideals: Virginia's 1786 Statute for Religious
Freedom.
The Virginia Statute was more than a law. It was a statement of
principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all
humanity--not a privilege for any government to give or take away.
Penned by Thomas Jefferson and championed in the Virginia legislature by
James Madison, it barred compulsory support of any church and ensured
the freedom of all people to profess their faith openly, without fear of
persecution. Five years later, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights
followed the Virginia Statute's model, stating, ``Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof . . .''.
Our Nation's enduring commitment to the universal human right of
religious freedom extends beyond our borders as we advocate for all who
are denied the ability to choose and live their faith. My Administration
will continue to oppose growing trends in many parts of the world to
restrict religious expression.
Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice
our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in
harmony. On Religious Freedom Day, let us pledge our constant support to
all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves
to fostering peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. In
doing so, we reaffirm our common humanity and respect for all people
with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

[[Page 4587]]

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, 2010, 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 here and around the world.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of
January, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the
Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-
fourth.
BARACK OBAMA