President Obama's proclamation for 'Religious Freedom Day' recognizes atheists and agnostics

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“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.’ … 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.”

“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.”

“America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose. In the years to come, my administration will remain committed to promoting religious freedom, both at home and across the globe. We urge every country to recognize religious freedom as both a universal right and a key to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful future.”

“As we observe this day, let us celebrate America’s legacy of religious liberty, embrace diversity in our own communities, and resolve once more to advance religious freedom in our time.”

- from President Obama’s official proclamation recognizing Religious Freedom Day, which is Thursday.

The mention of atheists and agnostics has not gone unnoticed. The Secular Coalition for America noted in a fundraising email to its membership on Thursday that Mr. Obama had recognized “non-believers”, and added this statement:

“On Monday, the Secular Coalition met with White House staff to brief them on our recently released Model Secular Policy Guide, which covers dozens of topics important to the nontheistic community. With the State of the Union address fast approaching on January 28, we have also been working with White House staff to encourage the recognition of nonbelievers and an accurate portrayal of religious liberty in the president’s speech.”

The Washington-based organization adds:

“The input the Secular Coalition provided also covered issues of contraception coverage, the false use of the term ‘religious liberty,’ the necessity of teaching evolution and fighting back against attempts to insert creationism in the classroom, and recognizing the important role nonbelievers play in a religiously diverse country.”

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