Letter to Congress in Recognition of the 231st Religious Freedom Day

Advocates for Youth, along with 90 national organizations, submitted a cross movement letter to Congress today in recognition of the 231st Religious Freedom Day. The letter requests that all members of congress denounce hatred and bigotry by opposing religious intolerance and anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric.

Religious Freedom, a concept first introduced in 1786 as the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, is a hallmark of freedom in this nation. Yet in this uncertain and ever evolving moment in our nation’s history, political rhetoric has reenergized religious intolerance, specifically against the Muslim community.


In celebration of true religious freedom, organizations advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and separation of church and state are taking a stand against laws and policies that infringe on individual religious freedoms.

In solidarity, we sent a strong message to congress that we stand as a community in support of religious freedom for all, not just some.

The letter and signatories are stated below:


United States Senate
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC


January 17, 2017


Dear Members of Congress:

We are national religious, secularist, civil rights and other organizations that, while diverse, are united in efforts to advance religious freedom. We write to urgently express our increasing concerns about policies the President-elect proposed during his campaign, and cabinet appointments he has more recently announced, which we believe run counter to this founding tenet of our democracy. We strongly urge you to support core principles of the First Amendment and religious freedom in our country by denouncing anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.

This week the United States celebrated Religious Freedom Day 2017, which marks the 231st anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of the landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This statute marks religious freedom for all, on the basis of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Our Founding Fathers believed — as did others involved in drafting and adopting the statute and the First Amendment itself — that religious freedom is a fundamental and expansive right. This means religious freedom for all, not some.

As organizations representing a diverse set of religious and cultural perspectives, we deeply value and strive to safeguard the rights of individuals and families who are Muslim. As policy makers, soldiers, business owners, doctors, teachers, among many other professions, and as cherished neighbors, friends, and loved ones, Muslims are a fundamental part of this country and have been since before it was founded.

Policies that the President-elect and several cabinet nominees have espoused — to target individuals in the United States on the basis of religion — are not only offensive but unconstitutional. The proposed policies to bar Muslims from entering the US and to register Muslims currently living in our communities, for example, alarmingly parallel the deeply shameful policy of interning Japanese Americans on the basis of political fear-mongering after the US entered World War II. Supporters of the President-elect have shamefully cited that horrific moment in our nation’s history as precedent for singling out our Muslim family, friends and neighbors.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric is closely related to violence committed against Muslims on the basis of religion, or those perceived to be Muslims. As anti-Muslim rhetoric became more prevalent during the presidential campaign, the rate of crimes against Muslims also increased. Establishing anti-Muslim policies, such as forcing Muslims to register on a national scale, goes directly against the American principles of freedom of religious belief and of expression. True religious freedom means that the same right that protects the liberty of Christians, Jews, or Hindus, for example, to pray, attend services and promote their views in public, protects the right of Muslims to do the same.

As we mark another anniversary of religious freedom in our country, we ask you to help protect this founding principle and preserve our democracy. We strongly urge you to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies — and affirmatively work to protect true religious freedom for all individuals and families nationwide.




30 for 30 Campaign

Abortion Care Network

AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Advocates for Youth

Alliance of Baptists

American Atheists

American Center for Outreach

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

American Humanist Association

American Muslim Advisory Council

American Sexual Health Association

Americans for Religious Liberty

Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)

Catholics for Choice

Center for Advancing Innovative Policy

Center for Inquiry Center for Reproductive Rights

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) DignityUSA

East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU)

EmpathyWorks LLC

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, UCC


Forward Together

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network)


HIV – Prevention Justice Alliance

Ibis Reproductive Health

Illinois Accountability Initiative

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

Institute for Science and Human Values

Interfaith Action for Human Rights

Kaufman Interfaith Institute

Lady Parts Justice League

Medical Students for Choice

Momentum Institute


Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice

Muslims for Progressive Values

Nasiha Counseling

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

National Association of College and University Chaplains

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition of American Nuns

National Council of Jewish Women

National Immigration Law Center

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Network of Abortion Funds

National Organization for Women

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

National Women’s Law Center

New Ways Ministry

Nueces Mosque Nursing Students for Sexual & Reproductive Health

Poligon Education Fund

Political Research Associates

Positive Women’s Network – USA

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Religious Institute


Secular Coalition for America

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS)

Shoulder to Shoulder


Sisters of St. Francis Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Committee

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

Surge Reproductive Justice

The Body is Not An Apology

The Doula Project

The Revolutionary Love Project

Third Wave Fund

Tri Faith Initiative, Omaha, NE

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Unitarian Universalist Association

Witness to Mass Incarceration

Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Women’s Health Specialists of California

Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC)