President Donald J. Trump has officially proclaimed January 16, 2020, “Religious Freedom Day” to commemorate “the foundational link between freedom and faith in our country.”
“From its opening pages, the story of America has been rooted in the truth that all men and women are endowed with the right to follow their conscience, worship freely, and live in accordance with their convictions,” reads the proclamation, by which President Trump said he wished to “reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding the religious liberty of all Americans.”
By official proclamation Wednesday, the president renewed an annual tradition dating to 1993, which commemorates the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, authored and championed by Thomas Jefferson, by declaring its anniversary on January 16 “Religious Freedom Day.”
Religious freedom in America is often referred to as our “first freedom,” Trump said, and it was a “driving force behind some of the earliest defining moments of our American identity.”
“The desire for religious freedom impelled the Pilgrims to leave their homes in Europe and journey to a distant land, and it is the reason so many others seeking to live out their faith or change their faith have made America their home,” he said.
In October 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that protection of religious freedom is “central to the Trump administration’s foreign policy,” as well as being “an essential part of who we are as Americans.”
“Religious freedom appears first among the rights enumerated in our Constitution. Where religious freedom flourishes, there is greater stability and more economic opportunity,” Mr. Pompeo said.
In his proclamation Wednesday, Trump cited Thomas Jefferson, who said 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,” a belief underlying the First Amendment as well as the Constitution’s prohibition on a religious test for occupying a federal post.
This principle sought “to prevent government interference in religion,” Trump noted.
The president reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to protecting religious liberty, insisting he would not tolerate “the violation of any American’s ability to worship freely and openly and to live as his or her faith commands.”
Regarding violations of religious freedom abroad, Trump noted that repressive governments “persecute religious worshipers using high-tech surveillance, mass detention, and torture, while terrorist organizations carry out barbaric violence against innocent victims on account of their religion.”
The State Department has convened two ministerials to advance religious freedom, he observed, “to identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination around the world and ensure greater respect for freedom of religion and belief.”
“Our Founders entrusted the American people with a responsibility to protect religious liberty so that our Nation may stand as a bright beacon for the rest of the world,” the president said. “Today, we remain committed to that sacred endeavor and strive to support those around the world who still struggle under oppressive regimes that impose restrictions on freedom of religion.”
In proclaiming January 16, 2020, Religious Freedom Day, the president called on all Americans “to commemorate this day with events and activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and that teach us how to secure this blessing both at home and around the world.”