Religious Freedom Day

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim

For Immediate Release

Saturday, January 16, 2021
Office of Press Relations

This year marks the 235th anniversary of the signing of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute would eventually become a foundational principle in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which preserves an individual’s right to belief and to choose and exercise faith without government coercion or reprisal. Since 1993, every U.S President has issued a proclamation on January 16 to commemorate National Religious Freedom and celebrate America’s first freedom.

Societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to foster inclusive economic development, which is why promoting this freedom in particular is so important to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Nations that do not respect this fundamental right cannot be inclusive, stable, or prosperous.

Since the historic signing of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, international religious freedom has enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress and successive U.S. Presidential Administrations. As one of the “Three Ds” in U.S. foreign policy (Defense, Diplomacy, and Development), USAID plays a critical role in responding to challenges and threats to religious communities around the world who face discrimination, repression, and genocide.

As we affirm religious freedom in our national heritage, we must also remember religious freedom is not guaranteed in all parts of the world. Religious freedom is on the retreat across the globe, and believers of nearly all faiths have faced increased discrimination, harassment, and persecution in the past decade.

USAID will continue to invest in programs that advance religious liberty for all communities to have a voice in their countries and hope in their future.