More than two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. On 16 January 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed the bill, laying the groundwork for the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights that establishes the protection of religious freedom. Twenty years ago President George H. W. Bush instituted Religious Freedom Day on 16 January. Since then, each year on 16 January, the president of the United States has issued an official proclamation in honor of religious freedom.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels deep appreciation for the freedoms that have flowed since the Virginia Statute and has joined with many others in fostering and encouraging the defense and preservation of religious freedom. Church leaders have addressed the many societal benefits that come from religious pluralism, vibrant religious communities and a general environment of morality and social trust.
They continue to address the vital functions of religious freedom in the exercise of conscience, the ability to live with our deepest differences and allowing all — believers and not — to have a place in the public square. Mormonnewsroom.org has collected many of these addresses and provided a six-part series of commentaries exploring the Church's position on religious freedom.
Read more about Religious Freedom Day in this Deseret News story: U.S. to mark 20th Religious Freedom Day.
Thomas Jefferson's image is courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division