Saturday, January 16, 2016

Presidential Proclamation: Religious Freedom Day

The White House yesterday issued a Presidential Proclamation (full text) declaring today as Religious Freedom Day 2016.  It marks the anniversary of the adoption on Jan. 16, 1786 of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.  President Obama's Proclamation included an extensive discussion of his Administration's initiatives to further religious liberty:
Here at home, my Administration is working to preserve religious liberty and enforce civil rights laws that protect religious freedom -- including laws that protect employees from religious discrimination and require reasonable accommodation of religious practices on the job. We will keep upholding the right of religious communities to establish places of worship and protecting the religious rights of those so often forgotten by society, such as incarcerated persons and individuals confined to institutions. We will also continue to protect students from discrimination and harassment that is based on their faith, and we will continue to enforce hate crime laws, including those perpetrated based on a person's actual or perceived religion. This work is crucial, particularly given the recent spike in reports of threats and violence against houses of worship, children, and adults simply because of their religious affiliation. 
As we strive to uphold religious freedom at home, we recognize that this basic element of human dignity does not stop at our shores, and we work to promote religious freedom around the globe. We are working with a broad coalition against those who have subjected religious minorities to unspeakable violence and persecution, and we are mobilizing religious and civic leaders to defend vulnerable religious communities. In addition, we are calling for the elimination of improper restrictions that suppress religious practice, coordinating with governments around the world to promote religious freedom for citizens of every faith, and expanding training for our diplomats on how to monitor and advocate for this freedom.