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On Religious Freedom Day, Vow To Defend That Principle

Today the nation marks two significant holidays: We observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Religious Freedom Day.

We’ll have more to say about King's important -- and often overlooked -- views on separation of church and state later today on this blog. For now we'll look at Religious Freedom Day and why it’s important.

Remembering The Memorial: Happy Birthday To A Classic Of Religious Liberty

Let’s say a legislator in your state came up with the bright idea to force everyone to pay a special tax to support “teachers of the Christian religion.” What would you do?

You’d probably fire up your computer and use social media and Twitter to mobilize opposition. You might start an online petition or lobby the legislature directly.

But if it were 1785, and you didn’t have any of those tools, you might just have to do what James Madison did – reach for a quill pen and write a broadside so powerful it would sink the idea.

Religious Freedom Day 2014: Resolve To Defend The Church-State Wall

I still use a large desk calendar, one made out of paper. (Yep, I admit I’m a dinosaur.)

This calendar thoughtfully fills me in on holidays major and minor. On March 17, I can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Benito Juarez’s Birthday. I wouldn’t want to miss Administrative Professionals Day on April 23, and Victoria Day (May 19) is a big deal in Canada. For you internationalists, Oct. 24 is United Nations Day.

But one holiday that does not appear is Religious Freedom Day, which is today, Jan. 16.

Legacy Of Liberty: Celebrating Religious Freedom Day, 2013

Your calendar might not note this, but today is Religious Freedom Day, an event that celebrates passage of Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering Statute for Religious Freedom in Virginia.

Some quick background: In 1784, Patrick Henry introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have required all residents to pay a tax “for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for some form of Christian worship.”