President Barack Obama marked National Religious Freedom Day by releasing a statement on Wednesday celebrating the event, although some conservative groups have argued that his administration's policies go against that very freedom.
"Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose," Obama began in his statement. "Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture."
National Religious Freedom Day is celebrated annually on Jan. 16, commemorating the Virginia General Assembly's adoption of Thomas Jefferson's landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on Jan. 16, 1786. The document was essential for fostering the religious freedom clause in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
In his statement, Obama reminded the nation that Americans of every faith have shaped the country, and praised the pilgrims, pioneers and protesters who have fought for abolition, women's suffrage and civil rights.
"Each generation has seen people of different faiths join together to advance peace, justice, and dignity for all," the president's statement read. "Today, we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace."
Some conservative groups, like anti-abortion source LifeNews.com, have called Obama's statement "ironic," however, and said that the current White House administration has pushed some big laws that go against religious freedom, such as the Affordable Care Act provision of Obamacare which mandates employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their employees' health plans.
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