January 16th is celebrated as Religious Freedom Day, That day marks the anniversary of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. After the anti-Muslim tenor of the recent presidential campaign, a coalition of national religious, secularist, civil rights and other organizations dedicated to preserving religious freedom in our nation published an open letter to Congress, urging them to oppose anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.
The letter, signed by over 90 organizations nationwide, reads in part:
As organizations representing a diverse set of religious and cultural perspectives, we deeply value and strive to safeguard the rights of individuals and families who are Muslim. As policy makers, soldiers, business owners, doctors, teachers, among many other professions, and as cherished neighbors, friends, and loved ones, Muslims are a fundamental part of this country and have been since before it was founded.
…Establishing anti-Muslim policies, such as forcing Muslims to register on a national scale, goes directly against the American principles of freedom of religious belief and of expression. True religious freedom means that the same right that protects the liberty of Christians, Jews, or Hindus, for example, to pray, attend services and promote their views in public, protects the right of Muslims to do the same.
As we mark another anniversary of religious freedom in our country, we ask you to help protect this founding principle and preserve our democracy. We strongly urge you to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies —and affirmatively work to protect true religious freedom for all individuals and families nationwide.
Read the full text of the letter and the list of signers.