Saturday, January 6, 2007

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Religious, civic and educational institutions in Fredericksburg are planning ceremonies to mark the 230th anniversary of the writing of Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson and others drafted the statute while meeting in Fredericksburg in 1777. Enacted nine years later, the statute separated church and state, gave equal status to all faiths and served as a model for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“When I came to Fredericksburg five or six years ago, I didn’t know Thomas Jefferson had written a religious freedom act for Virginia,” said event coordinator Jim Berry. “So I think the event is about education, as well as celebration, of what he did.”

Festivities begin Jan. 14 with a downtown religious freedom parade and ceremony sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The parade will start at the downtown train station and end at the Monument for Religious Freedom, where the Knights have celebrated the anniversary annually for several years.

Members of all faiths are encouraged to attend, Mr. Berry said.

“We’ve tried to reach out to as many non-Christian groups as we can locate to come join us,” he said.

Other events are planned by the Fredericksburg Council for the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which this year is focusing on Islam.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, will speak Jan. 18 at the University of Mary Washington. His lecture is titled “The Meaning of Freedom in a Global Context.”

The university’s department of classics, philosophy and religion will host an evening of Persian music Friday.

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