Each year since 1993, the president of the United States has declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day, commemorating the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, who considered it one of his greatest achievements, the landmark legislation stopped the practice of taxing people to pay for the support of the local clergy and protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination.
In turn, the US 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.
US Embassy Kingston is proud to stand together with Jamaica in defence of religious freedom, so that people may freely practise, or refrain from practising, a faith, belief or religion – free from persecution or fear. We all believe that fostering respect for religious pluralism and diversity of belief is key to reducing discrimination and persecution, and will help to ensure all individuals – American or Jamaican or otherwise – equally enjoy their rights.
To celebrate this year’s Religious Freedom Day, let us all recommit ourselves to protecting the faith of those around us. May we remember that religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality. Faith breathes life and hope into our world – we must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.
Donald R. Tapia is the United States ambassador to Jamaica. Email feedback to [email protected] .
LINK ORIGINAL: Jamaica Gleaner