Religious Freedom Day is observed on January 16th, which marks the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786.
The purpose of the day is to educate children and all citizens about the religious freedom guaranteed to us by the First Amendment. Today, we need to realize that precious religious liberty is threatened by government mandates that require businesses to violate their most basic beliefs.
Bible publishers, hospitals and charities run by religious institutions, and secular companies who operate their businesses according to their faith are faced with an unsolvable dilemma. They must choose between two important values: to follow their religious beliefs and violate the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide abortifacient contraceptives to employees through their health care insurance or to follow the law and violate their religious beliefs that consider abortion the sin of murder.
Religious freedom does not just extend to religious organizations. It applies to every one of us living our day-to-day lives. If we believe what we profess—whether we are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, or anything else—we must live our lives according to those beliefs. If the government can take away the right of Christian business owners to exclude abortifacients from the companies’ health insurance, it can take away the right of Jews and Muslims to avoid eating pork and the right of pagans to worship nature.
Whether you are Christian or not, whether you believe that abortion is a sin or a right, you should be alarmed at the government’s intrusion into individual religious beliefs and practices. Today Christians who believe that abortion is a sin are targeted for loss of religious liberty. Tomorrow or next year it could be any faith group, any belief system. To protect your own religious liberty, stand up for the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
~ Martin Niemöller
ALMIGHTY God, who hast created man in thine own image; Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, especially the evil of religious persecution, and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our religious freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among men and nations, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ~ Adapted from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer