The United States is not only a nation born of diversity, but one that thrives because of it. Every day, Americans of all faiths, and those of no religious faith, come together to address common concerns and build safer, healthier communities.
For example, Muslim, Jewish and Christian organizations in New York have worked together to combat discriminatory advertising. In Los Angeles, a Muslim-based community clinic provides health services to low-income Hispanic and African-American residents.
These stories are grounded in a respect for religious diversity as old as the country itself: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freely exercise religious beliefs and prohibits government establishment of any religion.
National Religious Freedom Day marks the still older Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and adopted on January 16, 1786. Jefferson later said the “freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”
Religious freedom is the birthright of every individual, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. People everywhere seek to practice their religion and even defend each other’s right to do so. That was the case recently in Indonesia, where two influential Islamic organizations deployed volunteers to protect churches during Christmas celebrations.