Religious Freedom Day, commemorating the enactment on January 16, 1786 of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, authored by Thomas Jefferson, is being proclaimed by executive leaders of Connecticut jurisdictions — Harry W. Rilling, Mayor of Norwalk; Brenda L. Kupchick, First Selectwoman of Fairfield; and David R. Martin, Mayor of Stamford. The statute, adopted at a time when many of the original thirteen colonies each had their own established religions, led to the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

As proclaimed in Norwalk and Fairfield “Freedom of Religion principles should guide or be used as a pathway to follow for: judicial decisions, legislation and public policy making at all levels of government; such that the government may not favor one religion over another, or over atheism or agnosticism;” and succinctly in Stamford “We reaffirm our commitment to the freedom to practice a belief or religion; to change religions; or to have no religion.”

In 1992 Congress designated January 16th as Religious Freedom Day, reaffirming its importance as a basic American freedom.

The Virginia law explained ““That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry, … That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical; … Be it enacted that no man … shall suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”