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PROCLAMATION: Religious Freedom Day, 2001

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                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                          January 16, 2001

                        RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2001

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                              A PROCLAMATION

                             January 15, 2001

     Each year we commemorate the anniversary of the religious freedom
statute adopted by the Virginia legislature in 1786.  This statute, which
reflects the wisdom and foresight of its author, Thomas Jefferson, and its
cosponsor, James Madison, became the model for the First Amendment to our
Constitution, and it has had enormous and far-reaching consequences for the
life of our Nation.

     Just a few weeks ago, we saw how much that freedom means to all of us,
as we celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Eid Al-Fitr within the same
week.  These holidays belonging to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths
were observed freely and in peace by millions of people across our country
-- an occurrence unimaginable in some regions of the world, where people
suffer persecution and even death for worshipping according to their
conscience.  Because of religious freedom, Americans have been spared much
of the violence, bitterness, and conflict that have scarred so many other
societies, and our Nation has benefited immeasurably from the many
contributions of generations of men and women who emigrated to America
because their right to worship was protected by the Constitution and the
courts and respected by their fellow citizens.

     But religious freedom is not a right we enjoy solely by virtue of
being Americans; it is a fundamental human right that should be honored in
every Nation around the globe.  That is why I have sought to make it an
integral part of U.S. foreign policy and to raise international awareness
that many countries continue to engage in or tolerate egregious violations
of their citizens? right to worship.  I am proud that we have expanded
reporting on religious freedom in every country, and that through our
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, we have
strived to promote religious freedom where it is threatened or denied and
to intervene on behalf of those who are suffering because of their
religious beliefs and practices.

     More than 2 centuries ago, our founders sought to protect the
religious freedom that inherently belongs to every human being.  Now the
responsibility falls to our generation, not only to preserve that right,
but also to work together for the day when all people can worship freely
and in peace.

     NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States
of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and
the laws of the United States,

do hereby proclaim January 16, 2001, as Religious Freedom Day.  I call upon
the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate
ceremonies, activities, and programs, and I urge all Americans to reaffirm
their devotion to the fundamental principles of religious freedom and

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand one, and of
the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and

                              WILLIAM J. CLINTON

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