RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY - January 11th
//REPRINTED FROM: January 2015 issue of The Bishop Flaherty Patriot, the newsletter of Assembly #1678
1/5/2015 - Religious Freedom Day will be celebrated in Fredericksburg, VA on Sunday, January 11, 2015, at the Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Avenue. This is the day that Fredericksburg celebrates the writing of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. In this document the United States of America made probably its greatest contribution to government recognition of religious freedom. This year will mark the 238th anniversary of this important document.
There’s a large stone monument that sits in the median of Washington Avenue, near the intersection of Pitt Street, in Fredericksburg. The monument, erected by the city government in 1932, pays tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who in 1777 — along with George Mason, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe and Thomas Ludwell Lee — drafted the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Jefferson introduced the statute in the General Assembly in 1779. After much wrangling and lobbying by James Madison, the law was passed in 1786. To quote from the Bill: “…all men shall be free to profess…their opinions in matters of religion and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities". The statute became the basis for the First Amendment’s religious freedom clauses to the U.S. Constitution.
The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom was one of Thomas Jefferson’s three achievements that he was most proud of, the others being the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia.
For 60 years, Knights of Columbus in the Fredericksburg area have paid quiet homage to the work of those five men who helped lay the foundation of religious liberty in the United States. In 1955, the Fredericksburg Knights of Columbus Council No. 4034 began laying a wreath of flowers annually at the monument to show their support and respect for the event that helped form the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In 1972, several Knights of Columbus councils in the area formed Rappahannock Assembly No. 1613, composed of fourth-degree Knights who are dedicated to fostering patriotism.
The Rappahannock Assembly, along with other religious and secular organizations, began a Religious Freedom Day parade from the Fredericksburg train station to the Religious Freedom Monument. The parade has happened on the second Sunday of January ever since. It’s a mile walk that departs the Fredericksburg train station parking lot at 1:30 PM. The parade proceeds down Caroline Street, up Amelia Street and down Washington Avenue to the Religious Freedom Monument, arriving at the monument around 2:00 PM. There’s patriotic music, speeches by dignitaries and formal proclamations. The ceremony culminates with the laying of a wreath at the monument.
Schedule of Events
12:45 PM Parade Participants Assemble at Fredericksburg Train Station
1:15 PM Dignitaries Gather at University of Mary Washington Catholic Student Center
1:30 PM Parade Begins
1:40 PM Dignitaries Depart for Religious Freedom Monument
1:50 PM Dignitaries Arrive at Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Avenue
1:55 PM Parade Arrives at Religious Freedom Monument
2:00 PM Ceremony Begins
3:00 PM Reception at Mary Washington Catholic Student Center, 1614 College Ave, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 for Knights of Columbus and Invited Guests
4:00 PM Events Conclude