One of the best things about the United States is that every American has the right to demonstrate belief or religion, change religion, or not to follow any religion. Beginning with President George H.W. Bush in 1993, the Presidents of the U.S. have proclaimed Religious Freedom Day annually on January 16th as an observance to protect and promote religious expression rights. The celebration commemorates January 16, 1786 when Virginia’s General Assembly adopted Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute became the basis for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and led to freedom of religion for all Americans. Jefferson considered political freedom, religious freedom, and educational freedom and opportunity to be the three greatest accomplishments of his life. Of the three, he believed religious freedom was the foundation, because without the freedom to think and believe as you wish, you could not have the other two.
While there’s no consensus on exactly what defines a religion, it’s basically considered a set of beliefs or practices that define relations between humans and what they perceive as supernatural, sacred, transcendent, or spiritual. This relationship is a very personal one that can only be defined by each individual themselves. That’s why freedom of religion is considered by many to be a fundamental human right. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his (or her) religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his (or her) religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Americans are free to worship any religion they choose: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, Pagan, Zoroastrianism, and many others. They can also choose a non-religious path such as Agnostic, Atheist, or Deist. For some, spirituality crosses boundaries and incorporates the various practices and teachings of multiple religions. Historically, societies that offered individuals the opportunity to explore different spiritual paths were more diverse and prosperous. George Washington, along with many of the U.S founders, thought that government should be separate from religion, so as not to cause divisiveness among the nation. They believed it was more important to live out the virtues of their religious beliefs. President Washington expressed that it was more Christian-like to embrace people of differing faiths than to judge against them.
In our current society, religious freedom appears to be shifted towards “religious tolerance” in practice. Many people “put up with” or “accept” other religions, but not necessarily embrace those on different spiritual paths. While tolerance is an important step in creating peace, truly honoring people’s right to worship as they choose and celebrating everyone’s choice as equally valid is a cornerstone in building healthy relationships that lead to lasting peace.
Currently, there is strong debate on what exactly religious freedom is. Do you have the right to discriminate providing services to those with differing religions? Do you have the right to regulate what others do (and can’t do) if your religion says so? What’s the role of the government, if it’s supposed to stay out of these affairs? These questions, and their many off-branches, will keep the court system busy for years to come. So far, it’s been determined that government can’t directly regulate religion (like make the church marry gay people), but they can say that if you run a business that uses public roads & utilities then you can’t discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
The principle of religious liberty is both an inspiration and part of America’s foundation. A wonderful way to celebrate this ideal on January 16th is to read the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom with your family, at church, or in school. Live the principle, and allow others to have their beliefs. Jefferson once suggested that perhaps the only thing that we should require of anyone… is their commitment to tolerate others.
New Year’s Day started off with an emotional, sentimental Super Full Moon in Cancer that likely brought up memories and reflection of the past year. As the moon shifted into its waning phase, many people may have felt unmotivated to start their resolutions. The New Moon in Capricorn occurs on January 16th @ 9:17 p.m. EST, which brings a fresh start and another round of inspiration to pursue our goals. Capricorn is an ambitious sign and it rules our careers, public image, and achievements. It also governs large structures like government, religion, corporations, and authorities. Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and Pluto are also traveling through Capricorn along with the Sun & Moon, making this an especially powerful time. With all of this planetary energy combining, the steps we take now can cause major shifts in our lives, and lay the foundation for great achievements in the future. The alignments with Mercury and Venus will highlight relationships, our values, love and creativity, and those with Saturn and Pluto will bring illuminations, structural changes, and person / societal transformations. Look back to the beginning of last week (Jan 8-10) when there was a triple conjunction of the Sun, Pluto, and Venus for clues about the changes that are unfolding.
On the night of the New Moon (or a day or two after), take some time for quiet reflection. Rest and stay grounded. Focus on your well being and balancing your emotional and mental energies. Look for the places in your life that may be closing, and others that are opening up. This is a time of transformation, so these crossroads are important clues about some of the possible opportunities that are waiting for us if we choose to change paths. This New Moon in Capricorn is the ideal time to make plans for 2018 and start working on your dreams for the year ahead. The corresponding Full Moon in Capricorn on June 28 will show you how far you’ve come, baby. New Moons are for new beginnings, but this one may also bring a change or ending that could involve a friend or love relationship, a perception or belief, a lifestyle choice, careers and jobs, social status, or traditions. Make choices based upon the highest good for all. Trust the Universe. On Monday (1/15), themes involving the highest good for everyone will also be in the spotlight when Jupiter in Scorpio sextiles Pluto in Capricorn, a powerhouse influence for positive change! This energy will be with us for a couple weeks, dovetailing with the Sun moving into Aquarius on January 19th, a sign that’s tuned in to what’s best for the collective. Kumbaya, y’all! And if you need some gift ideas for your independent, progressive Aquarian friend, check out my post!
And last but in no way least, Happy Birthday to Noble Peace Prize winner, Baptist minister, activist and civil rights hero, Martin Luther King Jr.! “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Thank you for reading! Please share if you feel inspired to do so 🙂