Local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined Catholic, Hindi and Presbyterian leaders in Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s office last week as he signed a proclamation that declares 16 January as Religious Freedom Day in his state. In the proclamation, Governor Branstad notes that Iowa has a “long history of welcoming and protecting people of divergent faiths by allowing them to live according to their own beliefs.”
In addition to some individual states formally recognizing the day, a National Religious Freedom Day has also been observed on 16 January each year since 1996 in the United States. It commemorates the date in 1786 when the Virginia legislature enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom, which disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations. The statute was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Photo: Governor Branstad signs the proclamation as faith leaders look on.
Last September, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched several resources on religious freedom. The Church believes freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects the conscience of all people and allows them to think, express and act upon what they deeply believe.