RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY

Let Freedom Ring!

 

Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship. The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

 

Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation and considered it one of his greatest achievements. It stopped the practice of taxing people to pay for the support of the local clergy, and it protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination.

 

The men who drafted the U.S. Constitution leaned heavily on Jefferson's statute in establishing the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Today, that protection is as important as ever. 

 

One of the best ways to commemorate Religious Freedom Day is to tell students about their religious freedom in their classrooms and schools. Religious Freedom Day is not "celebrate-our-diversity-day." You can avoid the potential problem of any particular religious group feeling left out by keeping your focus on the issue of civil liberty instead of religious diversity. Check out this short 60-second video.
 
Religious Freedom Day occurs very close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thematically, these two special days can be tied together by explaining to students the importance of Reverend King's freedom of religious expression in his civil rights activity.
 
Religious freedom, of course, can be recognized and discussed on any day.

 

Here are ideas teachers can use to recognize Religious Freedom Day:

 

1. Read the Presidential Proclamation. The 2009 proclamation is on the White House web site at www.whitehouse.gov (the 2010 proclamation has not yet been issued). You can also read previous Presidential Proclamations by visiting www.ReligiousFreedomDay.com.

2. Have students write a paper on "What religious freedom means to me."

3. Distribute copies of the U.S. Department of Education's guidelines on students' religious liberties to students and discuss it in class. Teachers can also write a letter to parents and staple it to the guidelines. The letter can introduce Religious Freedom Day and convey the message that, "my classroom is a safe place for your child to express your family's religious faith."

4. Talk about countries where freedom of religion is not allowed. For research on this, visit www.freedomhouse.org/religion.

5. Distribute and discuss the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Since the writing style of the statute is difficult to read, discuss each sentence with the students and have the class write a paraphrased version of the statute.

6. Spread the word about Religious Freedom Day to your colleagues and friends.

To learn more about Religious Freedom Day, go to www.ReligiousFreedomDay.com to view or download your copy of the Religious Freedom Day Guide.

 

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SUNDAY  

January 10, 2010

To increase national awareness for the President's annual proclamation of Religious Freedom Day, Gateways has launched Religious Freedom Sunday; to be celebrated each year the Sunday before Religious Freedom Day.
 
Religious Freedom Sunday (January 10, 2010) is a national event in which churches honor the educators within their congregations and inform their congregations about the freedom of religious expression students from kindergarten through twelfth grade have at school. 

 

To help students understand their religious liberties at school, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders in your church can distribute multiple copies of Free to Speak pamphlets to students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. If each student receives ten pamphlets they can keep one and give nine to their friends and teachers during the week leading up to Religious Freedom Day. In this way, many classrooms will receive the information and gain clarity on freedom of religious expression! If interested, please contact us at TheWordOut.Net.