Virginia Marks 223rd Anniversary of Statute of Religious Freedom

Delegate Christopher K. Peace joins with the Alliance Defense Fund and Gateways to Better Education to bring attention to two important dates in January. Sunday, January 11th and Friday the 16th provide two good opportunities for pastors, parents, teachers, and students to promote religious freedom in their local public schools. Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.”

January 16th is the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom in 1786. Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation that protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination. "Virginians can take pride in having crafted what has become a cornerstone of the unique American tradition of religious freedom and separation of church and state," said Delegate Peace.

Today, that protection is as important as ever. In too many instances, public school teachers tell Christian students they cannot include their faith in their homework assignments or classroom discussions. However, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines explaining students’ religious liberties. Students can pray, read their Bibles, and talk about their faith at school during school hours. They can also express their faith in their class work and homework.

January 11th is Religious Freedom Sunday—a nationwide initiative established by Gateways to Better Education to bring greater awareness to Religious Freedom Day (Friday, January 16, 2009) and help public schools become more faith friendly.

Religious Freedom Sunday calls churches to ‘proclaim liberty throughout the land’ (Lev.25:10) by honoring the educators within their congregations and informing the students, parents, and educators in the church about students’ religious liberty in their public schools.

To help churches in this task and highlight the legal assistance ADF can give to individuals, Gateways has published “Free to Speak”—a pocket-sized summary of the U.S. Department of Education guidelines explaining students’ religious liberties. January 11th is a time when churches across America will distribute “Free to Speak” to its students and their families. For more information about ordering this pocket-sized pamphlet, visit or call (800) 929-1163.

Gateways to Better Education and the Alliance Defense Fund have joined efforts for Religious Freedom Day. They share a common goal to create a public school environment where students and school employees are free to share and live out their Christian faith