President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on freedom of religion just days before leaving office. Trump declared Jan. 16 as this year's Religious Freedom Day, reaffirming America's commitment to religious freedom.
In his declaration on Jan. 15, Trump encouraged the nations to "stop persecuting people of faith" and called on the American people to value the "fundamental human right of religious freedom," The Christian Post reported.
"When the pilgrims first crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 400 years ago in pursuit of religious freedom, their dedication to this first freedom shaped the character and purpose of our nation. Later, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, their deep desire to practice their religion unfettered from government intrusion was realized. Since then, the United States has set an example for the world in permitting believers to live out their faith in freedom", the statement said.
Trump mentioned his administration's efforts to support freedom of religion adding that they have ended the policies of "denying access to educational funding to historically black colleges and universities because of their religious character and of denying loan forgiveness to those who perform public services at religious organizations."
He said that they have also acted to cut red tape ensuring that churches and other religious organizations could receive Paycheck Protection Program loans utilizing the same requirements "as any other entity."
In addition, he said that they have protected "faith communities against overreach by state and local governments that have tried to shut down communal worship." The statement also stated that they have honored the sanctity of human life, protected the rights of citizens to follow their conscience and "preserved historical tradition of religious freedom in our country."
Trump also mentioned that they have worked "to hold foreign governments accountable for trampling - in many cases, egregiously so - on religious liberty."
He concluded his proclamation by encouraging the people to celebrate the day with activities that show their "shared heritage of religious liberty" and that taught them to protect this freedom, which he describes as a blessing, both in the country and the world.
According to Christian Headlines, Joe Biden also released his statement the next day, praising the country's stand on freedom of religion and vowed to "be vigilant against the rising tide of targeted violence and hate at home and abroad, and work to ensure that no one feels afraid to attend a religious service, school, or community center, or walk down the street wearing the symbols of their faith."
He added that ensuring religious freedom remains very relevant and that the government must defend "these bedrock protections - never favoring certain faiths or discriminating against particular religions, and never imposing religious tests for citizenship, public office, or entry into our country."
First proclaimed in 1996, Religious Freedom Day is annually declared by the President of the United States. This commemorates the enactment of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.
A forerunner of the first amendment protections for freedom of religion, the statute is a statement about the freedom of conscience and the principle of church and state separation, Virginia Museum of History & Culture defines.