Page:United States Statutes at Large Volume 104 Part 6.djvu/1003

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PROCLAMATION 6181—SEPT. 20, 1990 104 STAT. 5393 Proclamation 6181 of September 20, 1990 Religious Freedom Week, 1990 By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation Many of the first colonists to settle in this country diiring the 17th century were driven by their desire to worship God freely, without fear of persecution. Devout in their faith and determined to enjoy the freedom denied to them in the lands of their birth, they braved the vast uncharted waters of the Atlantic in cramped wooden vessels and sought refuge in the New World. These early settlers were members of many different religious groups, yet all yearned for freedom and tolerance. Thus, by the time our Nation's Founders framed our Constitution and Bill of Rights, a unique tradition of religious liberty had already taken root in America. Our Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." However, the most celebrated guarantee of religious liberty in U.S. law is contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." For well over 200 years, we Americans have maintained that religious freedom is not bestowed by government; rather, religious freedom is an inherent and unalienable right that not only precedes the social contract of government but also imposes a fundamental limitation on government power. Ten years before the delegates to the Federal Convention framed our Constitution, in his draft Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson eloquently expressed this belief: Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of resfraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens... are 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, as was in His Almighty power to do.... Thus recognizing Man's free will as both the design and gift of the Creator, the members of the Virginia House of Delegates affirmed the view of religious liberty as an inherent and unalienable right and guaranteed "that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no [way] diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." Throughout om* Nation's history, the free exercise of religion has not only enriched the lives of individual beUevers but also strengthened the moral fabric of our society. The American people's faith in God, free from the weight of government oppression and interference, has shaped our Nation's most cherished values and institutions. It has also inspired our efforts to defend the cause of freedom and justice, both here at home and around the world. In 1807, during his second term as President, Thomas Jefferson observed: "Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good