Religious Freedom Day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly's adoption of Thomas Jefferson's landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1786. This important piece of legislation became the basis for the establishment of the clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, granting freedom of religion for all Americans. If we go back to 1621 and the Pilgrims, we know that they left Plymouth, England because of religious persecution. It seems fair to say, then, that religious freedom is at the very heart of the United States and yet, hundreds of years later, Americans are finding it harder and harder to practice their right to worship as they see fit.
Dr. King famously once said, "The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict." His wisdom is especially appropriate today when it seems that, world-wide, we're in in a downward-spiral on this matter. I'm not here to preach religion...that's not my job...but I do believe that each of us has a moral obligation to defend the rights of those who's beliefs may differ from our own. Those rights include much more than simply religious freedom. But religious freedom is certainly the focal point and a good place to begin practicing tolerance.
The First Amendment guarantees every American the right to worship...or not to worship...as they choose. But that right is being called into question by politicians, some churches, and many individuals. Religious freedom is at the very core of the "American Experiment" and to allow it to fail will lead to the loss of other inalienable rights.
On this special day, it is important for every individual to defend the right of freedom of religion and to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for reminding us that living together in unity benefits us all, not just a chosen few. The separation of Church and State is important, but it is vital that Americans do whatever is necessary to protect the rights of every individual without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin.
Another one of MLK's quotes that I love is this, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." This seems to make perfect sense to me but there are many others who do not share my belief that kindness, compassion, love, and respect are what's needed to move the planet forward This means acceptance of others, no matter what they may look like or what they may think.