This month KOOP Radio observes both Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and National Religious Freedom Day. America will honor Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy of fighting for individual freedoms. He spoke these powerful words during the March for Integrated Schools, 1959 :
“Make a career out of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
Every year since 1993, the President of the United States proclaims January 16th National Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the day Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was signed on January 16, 1786. This landmark statute became the basis for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states, in part:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..”
Although the statute guarantees the fundamental freedom to openly practice one’s faith or none at all, religious restrictions continue to rise around the world. As the United States becomes more diverse we have the challenge, but better yet, the opportunity to share and appreciate the beautiful cultural and religious customs of all inhabitants.
In the words of Desmond Tutu, the South African Anglican theologian and social activist, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
For more information about the establishment of the First Amendment go to pbs.org to watch First Freedom or share.american.gov to hear inspirational stories of interfaith solidarity, cooperation, and peace.