To increase national awareness for the President’s annual proclamation of Religious Freedom Day (January 16), Gateways and the Alliance Defense Fund are promoting Religious Freedom Sunday—celebrated each year the Sunday beforeReligious Freedom Day.
Religious Freedom Sunday is a national event in which churches honor the educators within their congregations and inform their congregations about the freedom of religious expression students from kindergarten through twelfth grade have at school.
The theme for Religious Freedom Sunday comes from the Bible verse quoted on the Liberty Bell—‘proclaim liberty throughout the land’ (Leviticus 25:10).
Drawing Attention to Religious Freedom Day
Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.”
The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. Thomas Jefferson drafted the legislation and considered it one of his greatest achievements. It stopped the practice of taxing people to pay for the support of the local clergy, and it protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination. For a free, downloadable booklet explaining more about Jefferson’s legislation, visit www.ReligiousFreedomDay.com.
Today, that protection is as important as ever. In too many instances, public school teachers tell Christian students they cannot include their faith in their homework assignments or classroom discussions. However, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines explaining students’ religious liberties. Students can pray, read their Bibles, and talk about their faith at school during school hours. They can organize prayer groups and Bible studies and announce their meetings. They can express their faith in their class work and homework.
Promoting Students' Freedom of Religious Expression
Sunday isn't the only day to inform students, teachers, and parents about religious liberties at school. The week leading up to, or following, Religious Freedom Day is a great time for students in campus Bible clubs to distribute information to classmates and educators.
Free to Speak (now in Spanish) is a pocket-sized pamphlet designed for students. If each student in a campus Bible club or church youth group receives ten pamphlets they can keep one and give nine to their friends and teachers during the week leading up to Religious Freedom Day.
REACH YOUR LOCAL SCHOOLS: For every package of 50 pamphlets you or your church orders, the Alliance Defending Freedom has donated its time to send a six-page letter to the school official of your choice. The letter cites Supreme Court cases clarifying students' and teachers' religious liberties.
A Two-Minute Pulpit Announcement
Here is an easy idea your church can incorporate in your services:
1. Put a Free to Speak student pamphlet in each bulletin.
To order Free to Speak pamphlets visit our secure online store at www.gtbe.org/store). Be sure to order enough for each bulletin and to have extras in your church foyer. Pamphlets are only 15 cents each.
2. Show our 60-second video announcement (see www.ReligiousFreedomSunday.com)
3. Honor and pray for the educators in your congregation. Offer a prayer of thanks and blessing for them.
4. Have stacks of the Free to Speak pamphlet in your church foyer for people to take and give to students, teachers, and friends during the week.
5. Print our Religious Freedom Day Handbook and give to any school leaders or educators in your congregation.
Be sure to email Gateways your story regarding how you celebrated Religious Freedom Sunday and/or how you distributed Free to Speak in your local schools. To write us, CLICK HERE.