On January 16, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly adopted a statute for religious freedom. This statute was written by Thomas Jefferson, and eventually led the way to the USA’s first amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Now, the president declares Religious Freedom Day every January 16 to commemorate that first statute and bring attention to religious freedom in today’s society. As I write this, nothing has been issued yet for 2013, but you can see last year’s official presidential proclamation here.
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites,in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”