Today, January 16, the President of the United States commemorates the legislation, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, that protected the rights and religious freedoms of all Americans.
"The right to religious freedom is a foundation of America," President George W. Bush said in a statement released on January 13. "On Religious Freedom Day, our Nation celebrates the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the protection of religious freedom in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The founding fathers who drafted the constitution under the guidance of Jefferson's statute to establish the First Amendment to guarantee religious freedom, sought to protect the civil rights of all people to express their religious beliefs without fear of discrimination.
The President said, "Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of freedom of religion to a stable democracy, and our Constitution protects individuals' rights to worship as they choose."
"We reject religious discrimination in every form, and we continue our efforts to oppose prejudice and to counter any infringements on religious freedom."
In an effort to uphold religious freedom, America has been working in other nations to advance the rights and freedoms there. The Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom plays a key role in this effort as an advocate for religious freedom that actively works against religious persecution around the world.
Bush said that in recent years, they have seen important progress in countries that included Vietnam, Laos, India, Georgia, and the United Arab Emirates, and with the release of many individuals in countries throughout the world who had been imprisoned because of their faith.
"By helping to secure the religious freedom of people in other countries, we promote the spread of liberty and human dignity," Bush said.
Meanwhile, this day not only commemorates religious freedom, but the birthday of a civil rights leader and pastor who stood for "freedom, equality and justice for all," observed on the third Monday of January around his birthday on January 15.
"It seems fitting on Martin Luther King Day that I come and look at the Emancipation Proclamation in its original form. Abraham Lincoln recognized that all men are created equal," President Bush said January 16 according to a white house statement.
"Martin Luther King lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling, and today we celebrate the life of an American who called Americans to account when we didn't live up to our ideals."
At the end of the President's address for Religious Freedom Day 2006, he called on "all Americans to reflect on the great blessing of religious liberty," and asked them "to preserve this freedom for future generations."