Obama gives a nod to atheists and agnostics in ‘Religious Freedom Day’ proclamation

By Eric W. Dolan
Friday, January 17, 2014 10:03 EDT
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US President Barack Obama smiles at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 18, 2013. (AFP)
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For the fourth year in a row, President Barack Obama has recognized the rights of atheists and agnostics in his Religious Freedom Day proclamation.

“Today, America embraces people of all faiths and of no faith. We are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, atheists and agnostics,” he said in a proclamation issued on Thursday.

“Our religious diversity enriches our cultural fabric and reminds us that what binds us as one is not the tenets of our faiths, the colors of our skin, or the origins of our names. What makes us American is our adherence to shared ideals — freedom, equality, justice, and our right as a people to set our own course.”

Religious Freedom Day has been celebrated on January 16 every year since 1993 to commemorate the enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.

“The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson, declared religious liberty a natural right and any attempt to subvert it ‘a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either,’” Obama explained in his proclamation. “The Statute inspired religious liberty protections in the First Amendment, which has stood for almost two and a quarter centuries.”

Last year, Obama said in his proclamation: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers.”

In 2012, the President remarked that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom had “preserved religious freedom for both believers and non-believers for over 220 years.”

In 2011, Obama said the Founding Fathers upheld “the right to believe in no religion at all.”

Faithless Americans received no mention in the 2010 proclamation.

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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