Honoring Strong LGBT Support Among People of Faith on Religious Freedom DayBy Adam Polaski • January 16, 2017 • 11:47 am
Today, January 16, is the 230th anniversary of the adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, introduced by Thomas Jefferson to ensure that the protection of all Americans’ religious liberty is firmly outlined in the United States Constitution. The statute declared, “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.”
A few days ago President Obama spoke about religious freedom, declaring January 16, 2017 Religious Freedom Day.
President Obama said: “Religious freedom is a principle based not on shared ancestry, culture, ethnicity, or faith but on a shared commitment to liberty — and it lies at the very heart of who we are as Americans. Part of being American means guarding against bigotry and speaking out on behalf of others, no matter their background or belief — whether they are wearing a hijab or a baseball cap, a yarmulke or a cowboy hat.”
He continued: “Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to the expansion of civil rights and workers’ rights. And throughout our history, faith communities have helped uphold these values by joining in efforts to help those in need — rallying in the face of tragedy and providing care or shelter in times of disaster.”
Last year, lawmakers in many states across the country have pushed for the adoption of so-called “religious freedom” bills, thinly veiled attempts to make it easier for businesses or individuals to discriminate against other Americans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The ideas expressed in these bills are a distortion of religious freedom – and they undermine another important value we all cherish: treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated. The freedom of religion should be celebrated as a fundamental right, something vital for all people in our country – but it should never be used as a weapon, something explicitly and specifically leveraged to harm a class of people or make discrimination easier.
Learn more about the many people of faith who support comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination protections.
And read more about how so-called “religious freedom restoration” laws have real consequences for all Americans.