Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring January 16, 2019 as “Religious Freedom Day” in recognition of America’s tradition of religious freedom. Governor Ricketts was joined at the ceremony by faith leaders, students, and representatives from the Nebraska Family Alliance and Nebraska Catholic Conference. Religious Freedom Day is observed nationwide on January 16th, which is the anniversary of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.
“With the arrival of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, religious freedom has been a key part of our heritage since the founding of our country,” said Governor Ricketts. “Today, religious freedom remains a distinguishing characteristic of the American Republic. As Americans and Nebraskans, we have a solemn duty to protect and exercise our right to religious freedom. Around the world, many are persecuted for their beliefs and for worshipping God.”
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Article I-4 of the Nebraska Constitution recognizes that “All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”
“The free practice of religion not only allows us to worship in faith, but empowers us to love and serve our neighbor, particularly those most in need, as Jesus taught us: to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless and comfort the afflicted,” said Dr. Courtney Miller, Director of Clinical Services at Catholic Social Services. “While we celebrate and rejoice in these good deeds, it is important for us to remain watchful of threats to our religious liberty, such as discriminatory regulations or laws, that could restrict or shut down many of our services, which help countless vulnerable people in our state and country.”
Governor Ricketts has taken steps to support religious freedom in Nebraska. In 2017, Governor Ricketts signed LB62, a bill which ended criminal penalties for public school teachers wearing religious garb. LB62 was carried through the Nebraska Legislature by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk.
"Religious liberty is one of America’s founding principles,” said Karen Bowling, Executive Director of the Nebraska Family Alliance. “A sacred human right guaranteeing you the freedom of conscience to practice your deeply held beliefs without fear of government punishment. Nebraska Family Alliance is honored to stand alongside Governor Ricketts today in support of this irreplaceable American freedom.”
While Americans are free to practice religion, many around the world do not have the same liberty. Over Christmas, Iran stepped up persecution of its Christian minority. In North Korea, citizens are mandated to worship the ruling Kim family. And even in America this past year, we experienced the horrible tragedy of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
More information regarding Religious Freedom Day can be found at www.ReligiousFreedomDay.com.